Sunday, April 4, 2010

Hijacking the First Line

I have explained how the three levels of consciousness work. We now know how resonance operates. So let’s put them together and see what we get. You know how someone just talks and talks and dumps on us. They cannot seem to stop themselves. That is largely due to resonance, where the first line is close to consciousness and continually drives the release of a torrent of words. In short, in the same way that in sex, when it gets to a certain heated level, it is hijacked by pain on the first line and then it is driven to its denouement by that deep level.

So when there is an argument the other person who is screaming and railing cannot seem to stop himself because the energy behind it lies on the most primitive areas of our nervous system. The person is out of control because thoughts and desires do nothing to stop the onslaught from below. In other words, here again, the first line hijacks the verbal area and drives it incessantly. That torrent of emotions and words tells us about origins; something that cognitive approaches cannot touch. While we are encouraging control, the first-line is arguing very well against control.

The current heated dialogue has dredged up very early pure energy from the preverbal non-verbal brain that drives the interchange constantly. So we might say, “well that is pre-psychotic.” But it is just the deep level imprints waiting for their exit. When the current emotional level equals the deeper valences, there will be resonance, no matter how much we don’t want it to happen. And there will be hijacking in many areas. In sex, once there is hijacking the act will run off exactly in terms of the first line. It will take control and run the show. So when someone seems out of control, you can count on resonance to be the culprit.


  1. Art,

    It seems almost like the word "resonance" is being substituted for what used to be called "triggering". Is there something about this terminology upgrade that you feel is more accurate or sheds more light on underlying processes?

    Also, while this article mentions only first line pain, what about second line? Does it lack the power to make someone argue incessantly? It seems there is very little emphasis these days on anything except first line. Why is that?

    When I was around 20 (before I had Primal Therapy but after I read your books), I listened to some music which unexpectedly took me back to the feelings of a six-year-old. At first the music just had a "strange familiarity", but when I realized what it was, then the tears gushed forth. I listened and cried daily over a period of weeks, but I never relived a scene or felt in pain or felt abuse. I think that having Primal Theory in my mind kept me for a long time from knowing what that experience was. I thought I was getting close to a "primal" at the time, but no traumatic scene ever surfaced. Much later I realized that I was simply feeling the difference between 20 and six, and longing to go back. Later still (about two years ago), I would come around to the point of explaining all this in writing, reach the words "I need to go back" and again be overwhelmed with tears and sobs (at work, unfortunately). I should mention that partly because of reading you since I was 19 and partly because of my upbringing, I have always had fairly easy access to crying. With the help of your books, I was able to "travel" within my feelings toward the most painful and poignant words and insights, or in other words, toward the need.

    My question to you, and I'm sorry it has nothing to do with resonance or hijacking (or does it?), is this. How does my experience of the music and feeling "six" fit with your primal theory? Is what I described part of a therapeutic process, or is it just something else that happens to intersect on the feeling and memory planes?

    Thank you in advance,


  2. Walden: Resonance and trigger is the same thing except I want to emphasize the notion of resonating frequencies; in other words how triggering takes place. aj

  3. I can't help feeling that we are getting caught up in words:- resonances, triggering, 1st line, hypothalamus and on and on. The best words and language are doing is using the left side of the brain to 'explain' what is, in effect, an experience (in other-words a sensation). There is a famous coan that talks about a faithful man going up a mountain and having an extra-ordinary experience; coming down from the mountain and rushing to his guru saying, he saw God and that he lives on the mountain. The guru replies 'She moved."

    This is a perfect example of how explanations don't necessarily convey the experience. Language and words are what has kept us deluded about ourselves and our relationship with one another: religion being our best example. The professionals and scientific community are obsessed with 'objective' explanations, particularly in psychology, but only keep us (neurotically) away from the experience and an understanding of it (the experince doesn't need an explanation though we keep insisting on it and therein, to me, explains the incessant talker ... me). I somehow need to explain all this stuff! The genius of Primal Theory in it's simplest form, merely proposes a way to look at a phenomenon that has eluded us humans for millennium and from any deep experience; that make sense of itself ... within.

  4. Walden, getting closer is not therapeutic. You need to go all the way. It is only therapeutic when you are resolving the source of the feeling.

  5. Walden and Art,
    I think what is playing a part in the choice of the word - and the thinking in terms of - "resonance" is the 'traditional Californian' expressions "bad vibes" and "good vibes".

    (Am mostly but not only joking.)

    What other way of putting it do you expect to ring true and start to hold sway in a place where people lie awake at night in trepidation about when the next really big quake will catch them.
    (Just joking.)

    More seriously, I think one should not abandon the 'old-fashioned' attitude that neural hardware has to transport signals (action potentials) in-along axons and dendrites and that the signals have to cross synapses (more importantly than them jumping across gap-junctions).

    I won't miss this chance to convey that within the actention selection serving system [i.e. especially within the ASSS of neuromuscular animals] these potentially-to-become some transiently 'paid and focused actention' (~ some mental and/or motor behavioral activity) can (can in certain specific hibernation imploring type settings become 'intercEPTed' by mechanisms responsible for specific hibernation (SH) - i.e. mechanisms that are the *instrumental cause* of selective unconsciousness.

    I might as well add that the same inhibitory mechanisms do indirectly pave the way for other consequences and symptoms that that are not as well generally and thoroughly represented by the concept of neurosis as they are by the positively unprecedented and uniquely unifying concEPT of "AEVASIVE".

  6. The sentence "So when someone seems out of control" makes me think about sexdrive : someone didn't have sex for too long (let's say about a month or two...)then she/he feels like she's/he's "slowly dying"... She/He needs to touch someone/to be touch and have sex in order to feel alive again. A present need that reawake an older need (need to be touch as a baby). That's resonance : a grown up knows that he won't die of lack of sex but he will seek for it as if it were a matter of life and death....To me "resonance" sounds like an other word for "neurosis" without all the freudian background. Maybe it can make things more understandable: no words but a physical need that we all had experienced more or less. It brings back in the present an older need because the context is the same (need for physical closeness).

  7. Richard,

    I wasn't asking you, I don't find your answer useful, and I don't think you have the experience to offer an answer, since all you've done is read some books. I've read them too.

    If you'll read my question (anyone?), you'll see that I was not asking for a therapeutic score, I was asking for a mapping onto a model of human consciousness and repression, etc. Art, would you please respond? I'd really appreciate it.


  8. Walden: It requires a long, thoughtful answer. you will find it in my new book Life Before Birth. art janov

  9. Dear Art ,I had just an "heated dialogue" with some ladies and Doctor(female..) whom I was no t6 able ton convince and persuade me as as a blod donator without showing personal identification card number..It very well resonated with my experiences with my mother and many other .... people in similar situations! But inspite of my 2inner torrents of feeings I n e v e r ever was so furious or whatever to let my first line feelings get me to act out of control !! Am I so well defended ? Yours ! emanuel

  10. Art,

    I would settle for a medium length thoughtful answer. I really don't think "buy my new book" is a reasonable answer to every non-trivial question, and are you really saying that the answer is in your book, or are you saying read my new book and see if it answers your question.

    Either way, could you please try to respond here, or perhaps email me privately? I understand that there may be nuances which cannot be thoroughly treated in short format, but still, you are a competent writer and you know how to tailor a response. Really sorry to nag.


  11. Walden: Give me the question one at a time. I say read my book cause I fully treat the subject there which I cannot do in a blog. art janov

  12. Walden, Richard answered your question but you didn’t want to hear it. You want to engage in endless mind games about feelings: an intellectual’s way to never actually have to feel them. Art isn’t the sole repository of insight and wisdom, in this or any forum. If you limit yourself to feedback from one person, how will you progress?

    How does my experience of the music and feeling "six" fit with your primal theory?

    - how does any experience that brings on old feelings fit with PT?

    Is what I described part of a therapeutic process,

    - no, see Richard’s answer. You cried without connecting. Maybe as a preamble to connection it would constitute ‘part of a therapeutic process’, but not in this scenario.

    or is it just something else that happens to intersect on the feeling and memory planes?

    - I have no idea what you mean. You need to ask specific and clear questions to get meaningful answers. You’re clever and articulate; okay. But what you’re doing is nothing more than intellectual bullshit, just the same.

    No doubt you’ll see fit to dump on me too. When you’re through with the anger maybe have another look at what we’re saying.


  13. Hi art,

    yesterday i watch on TV box players.I can see how much pain, strikes, suffering is involved in this sport( 1. line pain??)People say : " yeah box is just like real life !" And i can see the same logic in society ,that without struggle you cant get enything.
    How can you comment this as primal psichologist, is life real like box?
    We can see that some boxers are very nice and kind personalities with acess to their emotions- feelings but still why they choose so brutal sport?

    thenx, with great honor

  14. Walden I think you get closer to a feeling and then it disappears and then you try to get the meaningfulness back. The meaningfulness (the flavour that makes life feel real and important) disappears when the feeling disappears. But you know the feeling was important. At least you can remember that much. That's good because you can see that you need to feel. I am similar to you.
    I had a dream last night; I was emotionally detaching myself from my brother. He was about two and I was about four. I didn't want to 'leave' him but it was like I had no choice. It was like one big final decision. I just left him and stayed hidden in my head. As I was leaving him there was a wrenching sadness in my guts. I DID leave him permanently. In the dream I could feel myself pulling away from the feeling. I was crying but I knew I was only skimming the surface. The surface was bad enough! When I wake up from dreams like that, I don't care about any of my recent clever ideas. But the meaningfulness is gone now, and so I am working hard in my head again....working working working. Most of the time I don't feel the human urge to break out of this insanity. I wish my dreams would stay with me while I am awake. I need to be motivated by meaningfulness.....not some clever idea in my head.
    I got a bit pissed with Art when he said I need to stop intellectualising, partly because I felt he was insulting my intelligence, but also because I can't handle it when someone who is important to me doesn't understand what I'm trying to say. I want people to know that I am smart and worthy of their attention. I was being pushed by a childish feeling. It wouldn't have mattered whether my letter was right or wrong. It wasn't really about the information. It was about rejection. I KNEW I was being childish. That knowledge meant nothing to me. I needed some kind of release.
    You see how Art is Mr Cool when someone dumps on him? It's not because he is an arrogant bastard who likes to think he is above everyone else. He is cool because he doesn't need to release. He's already done that. Walden, I know you think he is cool (I do too). You wanted to be part of the cool club when you first went to therapy all those years ago. You said you went for the wrong reasons. Let's not forget the therapy was less developed back then. But now you are still trying to be cool. You want me to believe that you have grown up, and I shouldn't make the same naive mistakes that you made. Well sorry but you haven't grown up. I think you are probably just as neurotic now as you were back then.
    You and I and Erron and everyone deserves respect regardless of how neurotic we are. I can lecture you like this, but it doesn't mean I walk the talk. But I do get it and Erron does too. I want to help you because you seem so close to getting it. I want to get a rubber frying pan and dong you on the head. You need to lose some of that arrogance, and yes, I need to lose some too.

  15. Art
    About what you mentioned last week.
    If a pedophile takes part of your blog ... someone who is looking for help and sees your comment he will probably be afraid and do not dare to contact you. I understand what must be done if there is no help but the fact remains… there is help at The Primal Center witch must stand for what it promise and hold the security… it means for someone to be able to acknowledge one self and by that protect others.( What an opportunity for the center to chow the pain of being a pedophile).

    The police will do its work as well as the center… as long as we don’t agree about the problem one must do his own business. Yes it’s a afoul situation… it is terrible for a child to be exposed to a pedophile ... but it just gets worse as more children who are being exploited. A pedophile must dare to seek help and that must be on the first page that he can get… it must therefore be places where he may admit that he is a pedophile ... for what need to be pedophile contains. , I'm not saying you should let him be a pedophile… the recognition is the pain of not being loved… he doesn’t know that.

  16. Dean: I donno. I never watch it and feel it is barbaric. But on this I am no expert. art janov

  17. Frank: You know Hitler had a bad childhood too. Primal Therapy is a precious gift. We need to heal the great sufferers not those who inflict it. Yes it is a moral position but I cannot treat someone I do not feel for. There are others who will and that is fine. art janov

  18. Hello Dr Janov,

    My name's Ben, I'm a 28-year-old professional bicycle mechanic, and I'm from Brighton, England. I've yet to have Primal Therapy, but I live in hope and expectation that I will one day be able to visit your centre and undergo the process that I so obviously need. In the meantime, thank you for making me aware of what a blind alley and complete waste of time cognitive therapy represents (unless people need their neurotic defences bolstering so that they can function effectively, of course, or have their pain ameliorated artificially with new ideas). Everything you say makes perfect sense.

    As you may have gathered from my opening paragraph, I'm a big fan of your work and am 30 pages away from finishing Primal Healing, which is incredibly persuasive and fascinating. I've also read the original Primal Scream and The New Primal Scream. I'm very sympathetic (or should that be parasympathetic) to the scientific basis on which your therapy is evaluated - the objective, empirical evidence is very hard to just 'explain away'. In fact, seriously opposing the irrefutable biological truths your modality has uncovered is indefensible and will not withstand scrutiny - which is probably why nobody in the mainstream establishment of psychiatry (the cognitivists et al) ever attempts to challenge your conclusions. I suspect that deep down (maybe at a subconscious level) they recognise the veracity of what you're saying, but are afraid to personally embrace the colossal implications. Trying to dismiss Primal Therapy for whatever prejudicial reason is the comfortable option, rather than question the concrete convictions that they are strongly identified with. For people who really should know better, this is threatening stuff.

  19. Art

    After therapy, Do you ever stop feeling old pain? i.e. old Pain has a middle a beginning and an end, or it's just that the frequency gets less and less. What about you Art, do you still have Primals once in a while



  20. Art
    If we have that belief that we should punish people for their disease we will have a Palestine for all time. I am sorry to say…it will never be a moral issue... to moralize over someone's behavior has the effect that the problem persists. We would never have moral values if we had a loving world. Morality has the effect of silencing and control. To learn about our destructive behavior is to seek the love we never got... no morality can help us there. There is a need for morality but not in the treatment of wounded souls who seek help.
    Dictatorial people should be those who entered The Prima Center first because the effect of their power is devastating. Ones they were in a devastating situation… they were small children in pain and that are all what we need to look at. If he has heart someone on his way… for what he had the right to be (loved)… and didn’t know… what is there for us to punish. The punishment goes on if you can’t get help at The Primal Center.

  21. Art
    I feel very sad and sorry for your position. It seems to me that ... if you had met Hitler ... let's say during the first half of World War II and he asked you for help… you had rejected him? What had not happened for the rest of the war if you had helped him?

  22. Frank: Primal Therapy is a precious gift; not to be squandered. art janov

  23. Frank: I will leave the altruism to you. art janov

  24. Stephen: You know what. Feeling is a lifestyle. It goes on and on you get older and have resolved a lot of pain you do not need to feel very often. That is, you feel in the present when it is appropriate. You laugh and cry when it is called for. art janov

  25. Well Ben You write like a professor and I mean that in the best sense. A bike mechanic? I think you may be underemployed. That is one intelligent letter. art janov

  26. Frank,
    Hitler was a psychopath: he didn't think he had any troubles at all but that the german folk had problems because of the others (jewish people,communists and so on) you can be sure that if primal therapy had been around during the 30's/40's he would just have destroyed it especialy if someone named A. Janov had created it.

  27. Feeling is a lifestyle. It goes on and on. As you get older and have resolved a lot of old pain you do not need to feel old pain very often. That is, you feel in the present. You laugh and cry when it is appropriate in the present. And you feel more alive, even when you are not laughing or crying. art janov (edited by richard)

  28. Hi Frank , You may believe it or not this infamous bastard -I mean Mr.Hickelgruber..or the the like -Hitler had the the opportunity to be treated by a german psychiatrist -Dr.Hans Lungwitz - but he refused the offer to treat him (Hitler) because he (Hitler) would be untreatable!! And 60 Millions had to die ... emanuel

  29. If we understand more than we feel then that is a problem out of the primal therapeutic perspective ... then our understanding works as a cognitive activity against feel pain ... the Intellectual cognitive activities hold the feeling on distance ... the provocation… as the explanation about Hitlers activity brought up… losses in the declaration of his pain. On the other hand it also brings up the provocation. That is not this blog interested in… that is where the therapy starts. It holds you where we are about… until we have the cans to do the therapy correct.

  30. From a primal and objective/cognitive point of view you can understand that someone is acting out of pain/ acting out his suffering but however if this "someone" is killing people because he needs to "act out" his anger/pain he is still a murderer. Sorry about that but we need both part of our brain (left/right) the troubles happen when the left part works again the right part (cognitive versus feeling part). They should work in a complementary way...

  31. Yann

    If we do something because the left and the right brain is not working together… that is what primal therapy counteracts ... if they start to work together…there will be no need for such performing ... no longer be necessary ... because the need for destructive actions no longer find any "targets".



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.