Monday, May 31, 2010

Hugs and Kisses, Love Never Misses

One wonders why a hug from mom kind of relaxes us? Well, it raises levels of oxytocin. But it turns out that even a phone call from mom raises those levels. Leslie Seltzer from the University of Wisconsin Child Emotion Lab did the study. He noted that the mother’s voice had the same effect as a hug. (Scientific American. May 11, 2010. “A Phone Call from Mom Reduces Stress as Well As a Hug.”) This chemical is so important in social bonding. Again, if we are going to measure progress in psychotherapy we need to take into account biochemicals such as this. My belief about therapy is that it should ultimately help us love and be loved. Oxytocin is one key measure.

There are those who disagree with this goal; who believe that success, on the job, in school is most important. But when there is no one to share the success with it is a hollow victory. Unfortunately, many cognitive/insight therapies implicitly apotheosize success when they try to steer patients into trying harder and gaining the success ladder. That value fits in so well with the current zeitgeist of success "uber alles" where the therapist tries to produce an "uber menchen". (spelling?)

Of course, there are many other measures, as well. For example, when a baby smiles and coos the parts of the mother’s brain that signal reward (the dopamine system) light up. We might say that dopamine is an agent of love, too, and that would not be wrong. The sight of a happy baby urges the mother to cuddle and love him. So we might say that maternal behavior is based partly in the reward areas of the brain. All roads lead to Rome; love is made up of so many facets but they all signal health for the baby. We call ourselves social animals, and it is literally true when we note that just the presence of others can cause normalization some of our biochemicals. We do need people.


  1. Art,

    Lovely and timely article. I've just spent a week visiting with my mother, who is in a rehab hospital recovering from a broken elbow from a recent fall in her home. She is approaching 90 years old. The elbow is the least of her difficulties, however, as she is now suffering in the mid stages of Parkinson's disease. Parkinson's is the gradual death of the dopamine system, as you no doubt know. The artificial dopamine medication she takes has very short lived effects, so half the time she has to battle physical symptoms and mental anguish. I have not noticed any reduction in her "motherliness" during the low times, though, as would be suggested by your current post.

    I'm curious also whether you might know which brain chemicals are central to our tendency to complement every positive sentiment by following it with a negative one, including identifying the enemy and then heaping some blame on said enemy. Is there a neurotransmitter system that figures prominently in that pattern?

    I hope you enjoy your summer vacation.


  2. Hi Art ,I wonder why I always (?) refused to get kisses and hugs by my mother during childhood and adolescence. Pehaps I sensed the "hysterical" component involved resp.I tried to "punish" her for her othertimes cool,needy and yes hysterical behaviour-s h e was the baby ! Only few weeks before her death -bereft of her speaking abilities and bedridden after a stroke she my cheeks and really seconds before death she would agree she loved me.. May be I am by nature a stiff person -but I strongly agree that the presence of others can calm me -I do need people (especially feedback by women I "adore" Yours emanuel

  3. We need love from mum (or mom if you are stateside) but trouble is if we dont get it of course. Then the infant is in the desperate situation of seeking ways to feel loved when he or she in reality isnt. And this conflict is seen as the basis of many mental problems.
    Of course, my mum "loved me her own way" which meant she didnt really. When people say things like, "deep down I love you" but dont actually show it or express it one is forced to be sceptical. Love is something that is expressed in real behaviour and is not an oath or pledge. In my case, my mum had a very denigrating father who she resented. I think a lot of her pain got imprinted on to me. My psychology teacher at university once quoted the psychoanalyst Thomas Ogden (a person who I personally know nothing about) as saying that the child first meets the father in the mothers mind. In other words, the way the mother constructs her own father is built into the way she cares for the child and in terms of the gender role she replicates. But also in a dysfunctional family like my own I think that the negativity inherent in the relationship between my mother and her father got projected on the the male infant. The lack of love in my relationship with my mum can be seen as an expression of her poor ability to differentiate properly between her own needs and the babys. I think her pain was so great that she was never able to fully emerge or become fully differentiated as a person within the context of her own family relationships (in addition to a denigrating father, her mother died when she was 13 and there were unresolved issues of abandonment there too). And so these psychic injuries and lack of growth reverberates down the generations. I definitely think that I was not able to have a proper relationship to my own father (an aloof person in his own right) because i found it hard to cope with the painful lack of love from my mother. Perhaps I never even made it through the oedipal stage properly! (the effects of this on my own ability to form intimate relationships with the opposite sex has been predictably impaired) So, if theres any spare oxytocin out there I will sign up for some please.

  4. That's why sometimes we would rather share our life and success with someone who doesn't really care for us than feeling all alone and miserable...We do need others at any cost. There is an old story about a thirteenth century king (Frederick II) who ordered to brought up children without talking to them. He wanted to know which language they would speak (whether it would be greek or latin or hebrew...). They all died in a few weeks...

  5. Dear Dr. Janov,
    First of all, I need to thank you for the books that you have written. I am a new reader and very very impressed by the book Primal Scream. It is like a proof for my own idea how neurosis starts and how it should be cured. Now I found very clear theory and clinical evidence from you.

    Now to the topic. In the end you said :"we do need people". If people get hugs and kisses since the birth from parents, it is wonderful. But the question is: do we need people who caused neurosis for us? I mean, as an adult, is it rather good or bad to keep in touch with parents who will never be persons who can feel. Like I have read there is no hope for that, but still, every time meeting them is the attempt to change them to be more human.

    Best Regards,

  6. Dr. Janov,
    good for the ones who like to be touched.

    Not all children like to be touched/hugged by their mother/father. Especially the ones who were abused.

    I couldn’t stand it if my mother or father touched me. I couldn’t stand the smell of my mother or father.
    I still allow only a few people to hug me. It’s about the underling intuition of danger – missing trust!!!

    When trust is betrayed, love replaced by pain, oxytocin cannot flow.
    Did they received the needed oxytocin?
    Did they have to live without oxytocin?
    Can people with PTSD produced any oxytocin?

    My reason for not trusting, for not like to be touched or hugged, is explained here:

  7. Hi Pille
    Here's a horribly clinical way of looking at it:
    As soon as the sperm enters the egg, the DNA usually contains instructions on how to grow a super-human; a human with abnormally high levels of oxytocin and other 'love' chemicals. This genetic plan accommodates for the possibility of a perfect environment. But the DNA also has backup plans for when things go wrong, because nature is seldom perfect. As the human grows, it gradually becomes more and more scarred until it has reached the optimal point of compromise. This process is entirely natural and necessary for survival.
    So to answer your question: it depends on how you adapted...what type of defenses you rely on. But ultimately, when you lose your need for defenses, you will lose your need for compromise, so you will lose your need for unfeeling humans.

  8. Richard: Your comment is a perfect example of just how we humans 'run into our heads' in order to figure something out that, in essence, is irrelevant. A totally feeling-full creature wouldn't give a damn. It was, I contend, at the onset of becoming; deranged, neurotic, unfeeling that we delved into our heads to figure out what was wrong with us, which, in those early days, was merely subliminal. We finished up with Science; "Glory Hallelujah," ... but if we seriously think about it has done little or nothing to give us a better quality of life; actually has done the very opposite.

    Your supposed scientific explanation was, to the vast majority of us humans, just more 'mumbo jumbo' to confuse an already confused creature; we humans.

  9. IMO, Pille provided a really good leading (even if not deliberately) question, and Richard gave it a brilliant (in so few words!) answer.

    There really are some high quality people posting here.

    I like it!

  10. About Jack's comment: Do you all agree? art janov

  11. May I offer my view to Jack's comment.
    We have two brain-halves, the emotional and the logic.

    It is unhealthy or even destructive to stay on one side in the brain.
    Yes, we need to feel and yes, we need an explanation (science) for why we feel the way we do. We are not animals.

    The ones who only feel, become socially dysfunctional as well as the one who lives in the left hemisphere. When people continue their life feeding on feelings alone, the question arises, is there a disconnect in the corpus callosum?
    On the other hand, there are the ones who love to relive the same feeling over and over again. I would say they have became either adrenalin or oxytocin junkies. In other words, they love (consciously) to stay in the place they are in, not making progress, they choose to remain neurotics.

    The goal of PT should be, helping a client reach a healthy balance between emotion and knowledge - an equal connection between right and left hem.

  12. No I don't agree with Jack. One of the reasons why we have a thinking mind is because there is a place for it.

    And if it wasn't for science I might be dead from asthma by now, so there goes the "quality of life" argument.

    Jack: There is nothing neurotic about the drive for understanding in itself, which is really what science is all about.

  13. Jack, if you slow down you might see some logic in the mumbo jumbo.
    Our parents transmit their pain onto us, even before we are born, and our fetal bodies are ready for it. Repression is a natural function for survival, perhaps for all mammals, reptiles and fish too.
    Does a lizard repress it's feelings while it wriggles free from a bird's beak?

    We all encounter pain, there is no avoiding it, and there is no one to blame. Just accept it as part of nature and think about how to fix it.

    We can try to fight or avoid or love our parents...try to put a bandage on an old scar - but it's not therapeutic. Better to look at the science.
    Science can help us to see the bigger picture.
    Yes it can, Jack. It's just my way of saying to Pille "Look further than your parents".
    Apparently some primal patients find that hard to do. I can imagine how therapy can bring past feelings closer to conscious awareness so that they merge with the present (parents) for a while before finding resolution.

    I find it interesting how France Janov chooses to keep in touch with her neurotic friend, even though her friend never returns calls (due to anxiety).
    It makes me think of my cousin. She is one of the most feeling people I know. She can be warm and amazingly intuitive at times, yet she does things that a real friend would never do...cruel things...manipulative and disrespectful. When I get a better grip on reality, perhaps I will leave her forever, or maybe I will love her more. I've told her many times that I will never give up on her, but maybe that's just my selfish act-out. I can't imagine I would ever leave her, but maybe I need to stop struggling with her.
    Perhaps France is still struggling and still feeling hurt.
    Pille asked a good question.

  14. Andrew: It is what science should be about . the minute we take pure research and try to apply it to humans it becomes suspect in the scientific community. Somehow it degrades science. vis a vis primal therapy art janov

  15. Sieglinde: Brilliant. the worst problem we have is correcting the abreaction in patients who come from mock therapists who drive patients into abreaction all of the time. AJ

  16. Sieglinde, yes I agree that we have two brain-halves, the emotional and the logic as you put it. We are humans and not fish. Without our unique brains we would not have developed such wonderful things as talking, thinking, music et al. I do not think that Jack is suggesting we should not have a thinking brain and become mere emotional blobs.

    I have had to do some deep thinking and soul-searching over the last few weeks about some of the letters that I posted to this blog. I admit that I may have been off the track somewhat regarding the issue of the importance of "science" as I think it has become to be understood here.

    I do realise and accept the importance of the role that science can, and has played, in the life of all of us, but it felt to me as if Art was moving away from the very essence of what had helped me so much i.e. I was allowed to cry and talk and feel and scream and get angry and express all my suppressed feelings. Art spoke to all of us in his books and simply said "You are hurting. You are in Pain. You need someone to listen"

    At the Institute, and later with Brenda, I was on medication for some years. That is science helping, right there.

    But I still believe that parents can prevent their children from becoming neurotic simply by listening and allowing their children to cry and do what comes naturally and instinctively.
    And that is not science.

  17. Some very interesting rebuttals to my comment/blog. At the risk of sounding defensive, I'll respond. In general terms I found all the rebuttals relied on current notions of what we humans, as distinct from other creatures, are AND our human conceit that we are superior 'cos' we THINK. One other generally accepted notion is that the left brain lobe was created for thinking.

    Great thinkers (and that does include many scientist from Archimedes all the way up to Einstein) THOUGHT "outside the box", which was why they and their ideas were given believability. To my way of thinking--yep, sadly, I still indulge that neurotic act-out--all you guys are STUCK IN THE BOX and seemingly aren't willing to see beyond it.

    My overview:- Since we evolved from a more primitive life form, at some time in our evolutionary history we became different and started to "think". HOW and WHY?. I contend, (actually conjecture) that at the onset of becoming neurotic we started a very primitive form of language in order to express those feelings now in the subconscious. which were, as of then, subliminal. Benjamin Lee Whorf in the 1940's suggested we think in language. At this point we neurotic specimens started to exercise and enlarge the left lobe to accommodate this new thinking process and, of course, used this newly formed left lobe that was meant originally to ONLY express feelings, (emotions). Now these left lobe thinkers attempted to justify this new use of it's left lobe by inventing a new subject, called SCIENCE, which at the height of it's glory created the Nuclear Bomb--"arn't we BRILLIANT!!!!!" You guys with all your egotistical thinking will argue like crazy to defend your act-out.

    I'd love to just be able to get back to that state of being that I inherited as a fetus, baby and early childhood--pure feelingfulness. The rest is total madness.

  18. "the minute we take pure research and try to apply it to humans it becomes suspect in the scientific community."

    Some scientists are only too willing to conduct inhumane experiments. The money providers know this, so they try to act responsibly, avoiding all the backyard mad scientists.

    Today surgery has become a hobby, whether you opt for a nose-job, an unnecessary c-section, or maybe some experimental brain surgery to remove some bad all seems so clean and tidy. And drugs have become a staple diet. If it doesn't make you cry or scream, then it must be OK. And psychotherapists (sorry, I'm enjoying the sound of my own voice), even they want everything to be tidy...plotted...done...thank you, come again.
    Smooth, clean and tidy. That's what we want. Pocket soap dispensers to keep our hands clean when we are outdoors.
    I hope I poop my pants when I am primalling (no I don't)

  19. Hi Everyone,

    I think the answer to Pille's question is that our need, in its purest form, does not discriminate between people who are neurotic and people who are not. Our perceptions maybe do, but our need does not. That's why institutional babies survived better when placed on lamb's wool than on cotton sheets. Neither is a human mother, but one texture satisfies the need better than the other.

    On the "Jack" question, I do and I don't. I do agree that Richard's answer is all in the head (sorry, Richard). But I also agree with Andrew that regardless of WHY human intelligence evolved (we'll never know for sure), it has a place in a healthy human system, and intelligence certainly does help with survival.

    Andrew makes a good point about asthma. We have accomplished a lot of things with intellect; unfortunately a lot of them have been with intellect and no heart, such as making the technology for offshore drilling. But we should not throw out the baby with the Gulf water. We just need to find the feelings again.


  20. The thinking part of brains development is perhaps a consequence of the pain that must be repressed for survival.

  21. Walden: I am writing about this now but have no idea when it will appear as there are many articles ahead of it. AJ

  22. All science is already there ... we only find it. The ability to detect lies in our limitations. Science is how we manage to piece together the reality ... what we “believe” we have advantage of. Science can be cruel and how beautiful life is at its best... we choose according to ability and needs.


  23. Richard,

    I loved your last post. I think you are right on about the surgery and the drugs. It's important to keep in mind, too, that it's insurance-minded economics that drives a lot of this. Basically, to get the insurance money away from the insurance company executives these days, you have to present a project plan and show that you are executing to the plan. This pushes the linear intellectual therapies even harder than they otherwise would be pushed. <Big sigh>.

    But I remain hopeful. I've just started reading a book by Aletha Solter called Tears and Tantrums. On page 6 she says:

    "Parents need correct information, reassurance, and constructive ways of handling their children's emotional outbursts. This will contribute greatly to a reduction in child abuse and to a more harmonious family life...".

    This reinforces my belief that, while we are all somewhat neurotic and defensive, etc., that there is a marginal area in which each of us can make better choices if we are aware of them and their impacts. And we need to know that those choices are supported by others who are responsible and intelligent.

    Richard, if you decide to poop your pants profoundly in defiance of the neat and tidy, I only ask that you do it in the board room of a major insurance company. And live to write about it here.

    Godspeed, Richard.

    Love to all,

    you are right: “parents can prevent their children from becoming neurotic”, BUT only if they are not neurotic themselves. Only the healed person is able to listen to their children. Neurotics need to control their children (they call it love), because they have no control over their own feelings.

  25. Walden
    Can you provide evidence to your statement: “That's why institutional babies survived better when placed on lamb's wool than on cotton sheets.”
    How many “institutionalized” do you know personally?

    I know too many adults raised in institutions who can’t go to sleep unless they use the rocking motions.
    Germany has approx. 200 000 adults who were dumped as babies (after 1945 - 1970) in institutions. Nearly all of them suffer today neuro- or/and show indefinitely psychological damage.

    Have you ever seen the documentary video: “Rock A Bye Baby”

  26. Frank: Thinking allows us to disconnect from feeling. AJ

  27. Sieglinde I'd love to know what you do for a living.

    On parenting:
    I think a good parent is one who is not neurotic, but also, one who has matured emotionally. A child cannot be a parent. Children are realistic but they still have a lot to learn. As the child develops a better INTELLECTUAL understanding of other people, and a better INTELLECTUAL (stay calm Jack) understanding of how to live in this world, an adult awareness develops, and so the feelings change accordingly.

    We can't just open our hearts and live happily ever after in a beautifully childish world. The world needs more adults!

  28. Sieglinde,

    What you are saying about "Only the healed person is able to listen..." is itself an instance of ignoring history and ignoring evolution. Not to come across pedagogic, but do you see why?


  29. Art: Of all the ways to disconnect from feeling, thinking seems like a relatively benign one, since it leaves us mostly in tact and able to function on many levels. What are some of the alternative forms of disconnecting, and how do they compare?


  30. "Frank: Thinking allows us to disconnect from feeling. AJ"

    Mmmm! ... might we assume (or contemplate) that we started to 'THINK' in order to NOT feel???? .... at some point in our evolution?

  31. Walden, "Listen" means "Feel". A feeling parent can 'get a feel' for what a child is feeling....the child doesn't need to find the best words....though he often does, but even the best words have no effect on a neurotic parent.

  32. Art, I wonder if you still have some neurotic need to be heard. You are a write-aholic.

    I'm always trying to think of the best words when I write in this blog. My parents never listened to me.

    Just wondering, how does a right-brainer avoid feeling fully?

  33. Walden,
    sorry I should have elaborated on “listen”.
    People listen, this does not mean they understand.

    Many parents listen but don’t really hear the child or understand its need.
    Here is an example from a “good American family”, living in a two story 2800 sq-foot home.

    The Mother wakes her 6 year old boy at 6:00 am. She rushes the child to get dressed and hands him a Pop-Tart (breakfast) on the way to the garage at 6:30. In the car, she calls from her cell phone her co-worker, who she is picking up on the way to work. At 7 am she drops off her boy at the babysitter, she has to be at work at 7:30.
    The babysitter gives the boy a glass of milk and rushes him to preschool.
    At 4:30 pm the mother picks up the child at the babysitter, who had picked him up at 2 pm from preschool. She hugs and kisses the child while walking to the van. On the way home the child tries to tell his mother about his day. Mother says hold on baby, I have to make a phone call. After one call, another and another call. Only the small detour to McDonald (other days to Kentucky fried chicken, Taco Bell, pizza place), the usual nearly everyday take out for dinner, could interrupt his mothers phone calls.

    Finally they are at home, the child tries again: Mommy I’d like to tell you what has happen today. Mother says, we’ll talk later, I’m tired, - she lays on the couch. The child took his hamburger, went to his room and turned on the TV.
    This was going on for a whole year.

    After one year, the child now 7, was obese, addicted to TV and in the beginning stage of becoming a diabetic. The years before the child was 5 days a week at a baby sitter who devoted all her time to the child and cooked real food.
    Now the child is 12, grossly obese, just like his mother and his father and diagnosed with type II diabetes. Nothing has really changed, except they now popping diabetic pills but continue eating junk food.

    The mother told me, she hated her mother for never having time for her, shuffling her off to a nurse right after birth.
    Didn’t she use exactly the same childrearing pattern as her mother? She however, refused to admit that she is repeating a pattern.
    She listen to her child she says, but she did not hear the silent out cry of her child, she didn’t understand the true need of her child. How could she, she never addressed her own needs, her early pain and chooses denial instead.
    So much for evolution.
    Hugs and kisses are not enough to rear a child.

  34. Art,

    About the reason for the psychological emergencies,

    It’s physiological to feel ... see and hear ... it's a psychological interpretation of what we feel… see and hear. It should be possible and healthy to psychologically trace the physiological content but when painful experiences made it impossible… it remains in its infancy of physiology. This explains the psychological development and impact of symptomatic reactions.

    The pain has remained physiological and could not leave its position when the psyche could not analyze the substance but the intensity of the electrochemical process... it became a psychological electrochemical process… a life-sustaining role.

    A psychological charge and reaction… a “consciousness” that evolved much later than the physiological one... a physiological consciousness that never in itself is/was possible to wipe out ... suppress ... become the psychological task…task of rescue a victim's life… a “psychological burden” who develop after the electrochemical process to a life support function… funktion to keep the physiological pain in one spot ... "DIVINELY GIFTED" for the survival function of "health" which brings with it a terrible illness.

    The psychological development… a defense for survival?

  35. I am confused by my reactions to love. I divorced my abusive husband 10 years ago and even with the help of therapy I am not able to cry for the loss of myself during those 29 years. My mother die Oct/2009. I considered her to be my best friend and the tears will not stop comings. I have had a special friend for the last 3 years and only this last weekend did he reach out to hold my hand during a movie we were at and what I felt was panic. Panic that he may want to know me as more that just a buddy. Have I lost the ability to love or be loved?

  36. I see that whole thing about "Science" has come up again... I think there are two types of Science: 1) the figuring-out type we use to figure out the external world and what is grossly physical in out bodies (physiology and anatomy etc..)The type Reich called mechanistic thinking. 2) the other Science , of Feelings, in which our figuring-out minds do not work, which is the domain of Insight, which has a different mental quality to it (Aha!), which accompanies emotional expression and liberation, and which is still Science, because there are knowable and predictable patterns here, just as there are in figuring-out Science. This Science of feelings was the domain of Art, Philosophy, and Theology exclusively until the rise of psychology in the 19 th Century, which then got split , more or less, into physiological, behavioral, rational psychology (neurology, Skinner, etc..); and feeling psychology (early Freud, Reich, Horney, some Perls, Janov, etc....). Problem is that most of us, being "civilised", intellectuals, traumatised, have used until now our only instrument, our figuring-out minds, to try to understand ourselves, to heal ourselves , and it has not worked. And, boy, do I know...I still try to figure-out my miseries, but a lot less now. I try to stay in touch with my feelings the best I can,express them if possible, and sometimes ease , connection to others, and insights come... Of course, I don't have this whole Science , thinking-feeling conumdrum...well...figured-out; but I do feel that Reich and Janov have made enormous contributions in trying to determine both theoretically and practically what the proper balance between our thinking and feeling minds should be. So that we can be HAPPPIIEERRRR!!, and skip around, and hug, and see the flowers more...

    And , yes, we do need people. I was all alone last night, story of my goddamm life, and it HURTS!!


  37. Frank, I think what you are saying is correct, but the word "Psychological" means "everything in the mind" (thoughts and emotions and physical sensations).

    Here's something I wrote earlier in this blog. I have edited the part about tranquilizers. 1st line means physical sensations, 2nd line means emotions, and 3rd line means thoughts.

    All traumatic memories are felt initially in the 1st line. Fine.

    A 1st line trauma is felt predominantly in the 1st line. It is later interpreted in the 2nd and 3rd.

    A 2nd line trauma is felt predominantly in the 1st and 2nd line. It is later interpreted in the 3rd.

    I didn't say a 2nd line trauma is felt predominantly in the 2nd line, considering it gets it's force from the 1st line.

    If we begin in therapy by tackling "2nd line trauma", we will try to unlock the non-neurotic 1st line, while being careful to avoid unlocking the neurotic 1st line (to avoid triggering prenatal or birth trauma). If the 1st line can be felt 'cleanly' then it can lead to successful reliving of the "2nd line trauma".

    If the 1st line is too volatile and can't be accessed without plunging into prenatal/birth feelings, then tranquilizers must be used to help alleviate some of this force. This alleviation will help to separate the desired 1st line response from the undesired, or at least allow for some degree of proper feeling even if the 1st line is still contaminated by rogue birth feelings etc. (there may be times when the so-called rogue 1st line feelings are the predominant cause of the 2nd line trauma - in which case the neurotic 1st line is desirable.)

    Trauma cannot be fully resolved during the use of tranquilizers. Tranquilizers suppress some of the 1st line pain so that the patient can stay in a feeling, at least enough to partially resolve it. When pain is partially resolved, that means it is reduced permanently (not suppressed). Eventually the total amount of stored pain will be reduced enough so that the patient can fully resolve the pain, without tranquilizers.

  38. Sieglinde and Richard,

    You are trying very hard to convince me that there is just no hope. Good job, I'm convinced.

    Now, with that out of the way, let's pay attention to the way imperfect systems move along in spite of their imperfections and evolve into more fit forms in relation to the (changing) environment surrounding them...

    This means all kinds of things. Among them: The fact that neurotic parents can indeed sometimes listen and feel and care. The fact that a neurotic psychotherapist from LA can observe and respond to an emotional breakthrough in one of his patients and go on to formalize and publicize this phenomenon to the world. There are many other good things that happen. There are musicians and artists who will produce artifacts that help you move toward your feelings. The list remains open for you to expand on. Anyone?

    The point is: You are a parent, you have read a book that gives you permission to allow the Tears and Tantrums in your children without you yourself panicking or feeling guilty. That's a win in my book, because it moves in the right direction. It's not a guarantee of mental health. So throw it on the trash heap? Come on.

    Pille had a question at the top. It was a good one. I misread it the first time when I said that "need does not discriminate like that". I was talking about infant need. Pille was actually asking whether one should stay in touch with one's emotionally crippled parents. My answer is: Yes, if you Can, and Yes if you Care. They are just children too.


  39. Art,
    Should we worry about articles such as this one:

    "Forgetting an unhappy love affair or a traumatic accident could soon be as easy as popping a pill."

    At the risk of being accused of developing a pill for everything, scientists have discovered a drug that helps numb the pain of bad memories by flooding the mind with feelings of security and safety.

    And the technique could one day be used to cure phobia sufferers of their fears, help soldiers recover from the horrors of battle or allow accident victims to put their trauma behind them.

    To test the effectiveness of the drug, researchers created bad memories by giving mice electric shocks while a loud noise was played.

    Over time, the creatures learned to associate the sound with the shock, and hearing the noise alone was enough to make them freeze.

    But when they were given a drug called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, they lost their fear, the journal Science reports.

    The effect of the drug was similar to a psychological technique called extinction training, in which phobia sufferers are repeatedly exposed to their nemesis in a bid to desensitise them to it.

    The US government-funded researchers believe that, as in extinction training, the drug did not erase the bad memory completely, but created a sense of safety and positivity that made it easier to cope with.

    They think it does this by triggering the growth of connections between cells in a part of the brain that is crucial in dealing with phobias.

    BDNF is naturally produced in the brain, and experiments showed that rats with a shortage of the compound struggled to overwrite bad memories.

    Failure to overwrite fear is thought to contribute to post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as other psychological problems.

    Prozac also raises levels of BDNF, but the researchers believe that more effective drugs could be developed to tackle fears and phobias.

    Dr Thomas Insel of the National Institute of Mental Health, which financed the research, said: "Many lines of evidence implicate BDNF in mental disorders.

    'This work supports the idea that medications could be developed to augment the effects of BDNF, providing opportunities for pharmaceutical treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder and other anxiety disorders."

    A drug that boosts levels of BDNF in the brain might also help people tackle addictions.

    The researchers, from the University of Puerto Rico, will now look into the possibility of creating such a pill - and will also study whether exercise could be beneficial in dealing with fear.

    The ability to erase painful memories has been the stuff of science fiction and Hollywood blockbusters for decades.

    In the film Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, a couple, played by Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey, undergo a procedure known as "targeted memory erasure" to wipe out all recollection of each other after their relationship turns sour.

    Last year, Dutch researchers discovered that beta-blocker drugs used to treat heart disease may also help patients to banish bad memories.

    And scientists have shown that maintaining a stiff upper lip in times of crisis can stop bad memories from being laid down.

    Those who refuse to panic during moments of trauma remember less about what they saw than people who are more emotional.

    It is thought that by concentrating so hard on keeping their emotions in check, they overload their brain, stopping it from taking in what is happening.

    But the field is not without its critics, with some claiming that holding on to and reviewing bad memories is essential if we are to learn from our mistakes. - Daily Mail

  40. Patrick: I am in europe so hard to write but think of this: if it only covers up bad memories but leaves their effects intact does it really help? Does it help prolong good health and life? If the imprint is physiologic how can we erase it totally? art janov

  41. We are the symptomatic reaction… in all sense of the word… as long as we don’t get primal therapy. The psychological and physiological klatch create the symptoms and that is what we are. That pain will remain until the communication will emerge... when we can “let go” of our defense and “listening” to the “talk” that remains in our system. With some help that is possible.


  42. Patrick,

    There's no such thing as a "bad memory". What is bad in these cases was the experience. The experience cannot be ignored, it's what shapes you. A person thinking over and over again about a traumatic experience is doing so because it prevents him from feeling the pain. The scientists connected to this research do not feel much, hence the torture they commit to animals and their efforts to suppress intense feelings in people.

    In 2004 I wrote a short article about exactly these kind of pills and also the social, political implications. Then I wrote: "The army is already showing a great deal of interest, for it's known that many soldiers suffer from Post Trauma stress Disorder. A soldier who witnesses his colleague explode in pieces or accidentally shoots children, can get quite upset of course. Rightfully perhaps but the army wants such soldiers to keep fighting as before as if disaster had never occurred. These developments take part of a growing need to reduce every unpleasant feeling in our society to zero. Social and psychological causes are also wiped under the carpet by doing this. The consequences of a possible forced intake of such pill by for example criminals on their victims or employers who rather don't want too much attention regarding labor accidents, are immense."

    You have to really ask who benefits with such pills: the perpetrators or the victims? Who wants to shut up who? And how does this help in preventing bad experiences to take place ever again?

  43. Marco, you and I don't know pain. It hurts to be alone, but you are only feeling the tip of the iceberg.
    In my case, when I was born I was left alone for days. That is something I need to feel and resolve.
    Primal feelings are in a different league to your average everyday feelings. I can understand your fear of going that deep. But when people do, they say it feels good to feel the pain, and get rid of it. They say it leads to a MUCH better quality of life - a kind of freedom that we neurotics can't imagine.
    I'm not saying "Hey Marco....go to the Primal Center". I'm just saying there are people out there who went through the pain, and they say it was worth doing.

  44. Richard
    You ask: Sieglinde I'd love to know what you do for a living.

    I believe this link answers all your questions.



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.