Friday, July 23, 2010

What Is a Feeling?


This article "What is a Feeling?" is badly written and I apologize. I am still out of the country and don't have all my tools here. art janov

I hope I am not drowning the fish; I want to explore the nature of feeling so we can judge whether we are feeling individuals or not. What does it matter? Having access to feeling means access to a good part of yourself and that access means health; it means less repression and less unconscious forces nudging at you from inside.

Let us go back to some basic points: When the very first traumas occur in the womb (if they do), they are set down in many ways and in many brain structures. They also seem to be set in a certain wave length or frequency, (This is my hypothesis, not proven science. The science is not against it; it is just not “for” it). The traumas I discuss are nearly always deprivation of need. And those needs appear according to a genetic plan. They do not change; they do transform. Those needs are first biologic, next emotional and finally intellectual. They correspond in my scheme to the evolution of the brain from primitive brainstem to limbic to prefrontal cortex. The heaviest pain is the instinctual/biologic, those very early needs that mean life and death. Proper nutrition for the carrying mother, no smoking, no drinking or drugs and no anxiety (that is often hard to avoid), and subtly, really wanting the baby. As the brain grows new traumas build and evolve (elaborated) out of the first memory of pain (or noxious stimuli, if you wish). They enlarge the frequency base. The original imprint is compounded.

Deprivation of emotional need, to be held, caressed, looked at, talked to, won’t necessarily be a life and death matter but emotional deprivation can rob us of our humanity. Then we add more and more similar kinds of pain, say, constant parental rejection or indifference and we get a deeper pain, that I believe joins the frequency parade and intensifies it. That is, the new pains are compounding the original pains laid down near the start of life in the womb. These similar pains join together add to the imprinted frequency set down at the start of life. I believe that is one way they can recognize each other; old friends who band together. It seems that pain is pain, and the system doesn’t much distinguish among them; it spurs itself into action to hold it down, to repress. Just as the brain doesn’t seem to care what we believe so long as we have beliefs to suppress feeling. As deprivation of need continues and compounds it reaches more and more areas of the brain, including the cognitive, understanding the pain. More of the brain is committed to repression. The brain becomes a pain-dealing engine (see Morpugo and Spinelli’s work).

What happens then? The feeling centers may send up all types of pain to the thalamus, the switchboard of the brain, for forwarding to the frontal brain to helps us understand our feelings, but if there is too much pain it is rerouted into the lower brain centers, the unconscious, if you will, where it creates havoc and physiologic symptoms. But the pain is always knocking at the door of the frontal cortex, trying to connect and resolve because that is the only thing that can let us relax—connection. But the gates against pain won’t let it happen. Unless the gates weaken (constant deprivation and neglect) and then a flood enters and overwhelms the thinking cortex, scattering cohesion and interrupting concentration, producing strange ideas and uncalled for suspicions. What makes the gates weaken? Too much additional load of pain. Don’t forget, the gates are always trying to keep pain away from conscious-awareness. That is what they do. We can talk about synapses and transmitters, but those are the details for what is an overarching reality; we block pain so as to function. And when we cannot, we stop functioning.

We may spend a lifetime trying to fulfill needs; to be touched, sexual act-outs is one example. Or we may overeat based on starvation of proper nutrients while in the womb. Or drinking to kill the pain. Those basic drives to overeat, drink and drug often mean an attempt to quell first-line physiologic trauma, deprivation of life-sustaining input by first-line means. The most basic of all drives. First-line trauma (in the womb and at birth and just after), provokes first-line symptoms, and first-line attempts to repress---that is, feeding the body any sort of pain-killer. How many alcoholics have told me that drinking relaxes them and gives them that feeling of warmth they never had? No one takes drugs continually who is not in pain. Why would they? Drink and drugs would not “stick” because they are serving no great biologic purpose. We need to understand that in neurosis (heavy load of pain)they do serve a purpose and that is obvious; to help them get through life, even to function. Normals do not function well on drugs but neurotics (where pain dislocates the biologic system) can. They are attempting to fulfill a need, so basic that it makes any therapy or treatment feeble in response. Of course, for some it is considered a disease. It is so refractory, so difficult to treat, so early to start that if we are not armed with a theory of womb-life and infancy-life we can never understand it.

So attempts at fulfillment are what I call symbolic. We are trying to fulfill a need so early that later attempts only pall. But of course, the person goes on trying to fulfill need, as he must. He never gives up, and if he does his body will give out from the effort to hold it all down. So the good-hearted in 12-step programs deprive him even more; deprive him of an attempt at fulfillment, even symbolic but at least it is an attempt. He is doing it because he is not feeling, not feeling the need and the pain that comes from deprivation. I know we have stop him drinking but how about feeling!?
That is where we come in. We help him do that. As he becomes feeling he has less need for symbolic fulfillment. Doesn’t that make sense? Pain = pain-killing efforts. No pain, no pain-killing efforts. It isn’t done in a day but our direction is always right. Feeling means no more blockage from parts of ourselves. It means access in all directions including the deep physiological. I have seen patients who have had no interest in eating, nothing gives them pleasure. When they recapture feelings they recapture taste and joy.

The unconscious is constantly moving upward and forward at an attempt at connection and integration. It is trying to be whole. The deeper the pain and the earlier it occurred the stronger the force of the memory and the more it battles against the defense system; and the more it provokes the thinking brain into action. Sometimes the person needs more thinking brain to help out, hence cognitive/insight therapy. The joint thought combination of therapist and patient helps push down feelings. But it is a lifelong affair.

We have seen and measured patients whose brainwaves are extremely fast. For them to even get close to feeling they have to be able to slow down to get down into the feeling/primal zone. They do that either by feeling some of the compounded aspects of feelings and/or taking painkillers and tranquilizers to push back the force of the feeling. It seems like for these individuals the brain is racing away from feeling as fast as it can. Her thoughts are going and going and she cannot seem to stop them.

In each part of a traumatic memory lies a group of busy neurons working to join up with other likely neurons to coalesce into a feeling that is liberating. We smell mothers perfume, see the earrings she was wearing, the look on father’s face, the cloudy day, etc. I treated one young man who remembers that kind of scene; he could smell her perfume and saw her earrings so clearly. When he told his mother about this memory she was surprised at the accuracy of his memory as she lost the earrings when my patient was four years old. The more elements of the memory the deeper, more profound the feeling. “I remember when I was crying in my crib and daddy came in and had angry eyes and shouted at me to shut up. “ That whole memory came back to my patient only after he had felt many later less painful memories. It was a start of a lifelong fear of his father, and then of authoritarian men, in general. He was afraid to contradict his boss at work, a fear the worked against him, as he became anxious in his presence, and never knew why. So as all these pieces of a memory come together in a feeling, say, of hopeless and helplessness. The person is getting more and more of herself back, the self that was barricaded behind the repressive gates. What I have noticed is that those two feelings are behind so much early misery in my patients. We can theorize about what our basic feelings are but I have seen this over and over. Hopelessness/ helplessness is often the feeling when death or harm is in the offing and there is nothing the person can do about it. When we are strangling on the cord during birth, for example, or when mother smokes while carrying. They are the lifelong consequences of very early trauma. So when we say that depression over time can lead to cancer, we mean that the very repressed feelings involved in depression are also involved with the development of cancer. These are not two distinct maladies, in the primal sense, but different manifestations of the same cause. We can find this medicine for this disease, treating or finding many other avenues to treat a person, say for high blood pressure. but if we do not recognize the key fact of pain and repression we have a lifelong, unending task before us.

So when a patient is fully plugged in she has a complete feeling; when it starts in the present goes back to childhood, then to birth or before, there is full access. She will then generally come back through the same route; back to childhood and into the present. I call this the three two, one, event, and a trip back to a two and three, This is what I mean by access. Often patients are blocked on the route backwards, as they should be. Defenses were setup at the time to keep the memories from completely disrupting consciousness. They come up again to hold back deeper aspects of the feeling. That is when we know the patient has had enough. Often, if the therapist has a stake at producing deep feelings in the patient so he can look good, the patient will be pushed beyond her ability and suffer. You know, a primal is a very dramatic event. And to be able to produce that in a patient seems to make the therapist seem omniscient and omnipotent. Someone who has himself doesn’t need that. It is like making the baby talk before he is ready so that the parent will look good; having such a smart baby.

Incidentally, I have discussed the biologic critical window, the time when needs must be fulfilled. A small aside: when the child is allowed to go on fulfilling a need that has ended its timetable we may find a neurotic result; that is, the child goes on nursing for too long due to the mother’s need, and becomes imprinted with it. Becomes fixated on breasts and sucking. But this is just a slight interruption in what I want to say. A feeling means an experience, and that means all aspects from psychological to the physiological to the neuronal; they all join in to make it a feeling. And to cure someone of pain and repression we again need an experience, not just a mental exercise bereft of those emotions that are stored in the brain. Some of us have almost full access to feeling; those who were fully loved with few great traumas in early life. They never come to us.

The switchboard of the brain seems to be the thalamus, strategically positioned to inform the prefrontal area of what we are feeling. But imagine if you will that the operator is constantly plugging in aspects of the memory, the context of our feeling lonely and all alone. The brain is the operator doing what it can. It is unplugging emotional aspects of the memory because of their valance, and storing them for the future. It is plugging in certain aspects of the feeling while unplugging the emotional component. We need to plug emotions/feelings back in. Once we lock into a frequency where all three levels of brain function are joined, then a whole feeling means experiencing the pain on all three levels, the instinctual/physiologic, the emotional/feeling and the intellectual/comprehension; the feeling with its bodily dimensions meets feelings and and intellectual overview— putting it all together.

Some of us can remember the details of our early lives but they are not plugged into the emotions. Others are permanently plugged into emotions with little cerebral counterpart. They are awash in pain that remains unconnected. Normally, the overall feeling gathers up all the disparate aspects and binds them into a whole, into what I call a feeling. If there are still aspects of the memory that are not reachable, such as the first-line, brainstem base of it all, then there is more to feel. To get well we need to stay on that frequency/memory until all parts are experienced and integrated. In psychoanalysis someone can remember every little detail of her early life but be bereft of its emotional component. Once there is access to the feeling it will largely take care of itself. That is, no special techniques by the therapist are necessary. But if we try to force a feeling or decide we know where the patient needs to go, then failure looms. I teach my therapist never, never to claim to know what a patient means when she says, I feel lonely. I feel afraid, etc. Because there are specific feelings underlying the sentences and only the patient and her feelings knows. That sentence may be linked into right after birth when she was not touched or held. Or at age one my mother died. Or at age four I was sent to preschool, etc. If we think we know what the patient is feeling then it means we know all the details of her life and what exactly was meant by the phrase, “I feel lonely”. If we think we know exactly where the patient has to go in a session and try to lead her there, there will be no cure. We can make notes in our head but we need to follow the patient, not lead her.

So to help someone to feel we of course need the entrance to the feeling centers, the amygdala, hippocampus and finally the prefrontal cortex to bind all separate elements into an emotional whole. It is not enough to watch the patient cry and cry and think we have done some good; that crying must be in context and needs connection. All aspects must be linked together; linked by neuronal rhythms in the brain. Otherwise it is abreactive discharge which just releases the energy of feeling without its essence; the person is running off the energy portion of the feeling without knowing what it really is. Still, for the moment there is some relief so the patient thinks she is getting somewhere. She is going nowhere, literally. And we have measured the vital signs in feeling and in abreaction. In feeling the vitals move upand down in coordinated fashion, ending up near or below beginning baseline. In abreaction it is all sporadic, vitals moving in jigsaw fashion up and down but not going to baseline or below. When all elements are joined by specific oscillations of neurons we are on our way to health. The problem is that when the patient is repressed and suffers from this affliction or that, we go about treating the elements of the feeling, the manifestations, the grinding stomach or shortness of breath; we ignore the whole organizing principle which is feeling. We omit the repressed feelings that give rise to the symptoms. We omit the humanity of the person.


  1. I would like to add my perspective to this subject; "what is a feeling?" from a subjective point of view. We know a feeling when we feel one, and they tend to fall into one of two categories: those we 'like' and those we 'don't like'. I hate the designation "+ & -" There is a further categorizing: angry, sad, happy and fear, though there are some that don't seem to fit into any of these, like shock, surprise and confusion. However, there is another aspect to feelings and that is their valance (strength) from barely perceptible to very strong.

    Another factor of feeling is the expression of them. Art told us that the whole total feeling experience has two components; the psycho-physical event and the expression or emotion response to that event. It is, I contend, a failure of most of us to not see this two fold component of a feeling, that has confused the overall nature of the feeling phenomenon. Two examples; a) being pricked by a pin ... the feeling (psycho-physical event) pin prick; the expression/emotion, usually "ouch", b) the feeling of sadness and the expression/emotion might be to cry. Why I feel it is important to see this 'total feeling experience', is in order to see that the first; (the psycho-physical event) feeling, happens to us wily-nilly ... we have no control over it--it happens. The only control we do have is how we express it; the emotion. There are innumerable ways to express all and any feeling, from attempting not express it at all, all the way to full blown verbalizing . Also we each of us have our own different way of expressing them.

    What neurosis does is block the expression to the extent that it might block it from memory as well as block how it felt. This mainly happens in the womb, early infancy or early childhood, because at these stages we are so vulnerable and unutterably dependent. After that, for the most part, we're defended enough to block the overwhelming feelings. The exception is amnesia in the event of something as horrific as a road accident or devastation in war--accounting, I contend, for PTSD.

    The feelings we block do not go away and as Art suggests, but continues to reverberate in us seeking an outlet ... yet the potential horror of it, causes us do our best to keep under wraps. As an experience, that makes total sense, however taking the organism as a whole in nature, it is unhealthy, crazy and contributes to a poor quality of life. Theoretically it would be so lovely to 're-live' these blocked off feeling and free us to live a feeling-full life. One problem; having spent most of life in this never-never-land of half way feelings, entering a life of feeling everything is new and unfamiliar at first, and sometime even frightening. As I now see my own therapy, I brought much of my old feelings back into consciousness and though it's not debilitating anymore and quite exhilarating on many levels; life is not about perpetual happiness or even contentedness ... for me. However, I wouldn't have it any other way.

  2. Art, you said you can tell which of your patients can feel and which ones cannot. I'm confused.

    Some people can feel but they cannot integrate their feelings with their thoughts? For example, I read about a woman who came to the primal center...she was suicidal and wallowing in feelings of hopelessness. She could FEEL? But she couldn't INTEGRATE?

    And another thing...I thought the "3, 2, 1 then 2, 3 event" meant "3rd, 2nd, 1st-line then 2nd, 3rd-line event". I thought this whole process must happen completely during one session otherwise it will fail. I knew that it can take many primals to resolve one trauma, but I thought each and every primal must adhere to the complete 3,2,1,2,3 process, if each primal is to be beneficial.
    The 1st-line is not always delivering a prenatal/birth feeling. Sometimes it is only delivering the force behind an emotional feeling. I don't understand you when you refer to the different time periods in a person's life.

    I would love it if you could actually walk us through an entire primal. Describe it from beginning to end so that there is no more confusion (for me at least).

    Give examples of what the patient might experience at each stage of the primal and describe the thought and the feeling and what age the feeling belongs to as it merges from one stage to the next, and describe the time elapsed between each it a few seconds or does the next stage of the primal happen next week?

    If you create a complete example it would be much easier for me to understand.

    If you can't be bothered, then I will bug you when I arrive at the Primal Center. If we both sat down and had a chat, I bet I would understand all of this in less than half an hour.

    I understand the most important stuff, so it's not really a problem.

    Okay my friend? :)

  3. I see primal pain sometimes as being like this. A fighter pilot is in fear for his life and desperately needs to concentrate and be on high alert while in the air fighting. He gets wounded but no pain is detected as the system over-ride will not allow it at this critical time. But then after the fight as he is coming in for a landing, suddenly the pain surges and he is no longer able to fly well and has a bad landing. His back burner (sub-conscious) has decided it is safe now for the pain to be dealt with or that the pain is now more urgent than anything else now present.
    I see primal pain that way. What is more urgent at the time will get priority. Of course, if one is coming apart and not functioning much anymore, Then the pain is perhaps the most urgent thing to be addressed. But some do function remarkably well as perhaps the pain is not that urgent or demanding.
    As well, you have said it often. Ideas, whether false or true, can be marvelous pain killers that enable good functioning of the mind and reason.
    Yes, the functioning is not optimal and would be much improved if pain could be released, come to consciousness, and be resolved and allow the person to move on and gain more access to more of their brain, the emotions and instinct in particular. But again, Priority dictates, does it not?
    Scott, unemployed threat to the status quo, Southern Maine.

  4. Now… Swedish researchers have found that there is an infection in the body of depressed people… so now they try painkillers to treat depression. We think this is a revolutionary method to help with depression... they say. They therefore believe that infection is the cause of depression rather than depression causing infections. I do not know what went wrong but something there is. It may be ignorance… but a reckless financial speculation should be the answer… is the pharmaceutical industry's role in defending their interests against possible therapeutic approaches to help by explaining infections as a cause of depression? Also…perhaps religious wonderings not measure up as an explanation for human existence if only the physiological cause could explain life?


  5. Art wrote:
    "(This is my hypothesis, not proven science. The science is not against it; it is just not “for” it)";

    I think this kind of openness might also be taken as an attractive invitation, by scientific researchers in relevant field(s).

    How you describe what our primal needs are and how they all too commonly get negated is as always very good, IMO.

    Before I forget:
    You wrote, to the effect of that neural-biological imbalances conditioned-in early are a "frequency base" for later traumatizing predicaments these imprints "enlarge the frequency base. The original imprint is compounded.";

    Why such a (IMO) diffuse writing? I would rather see words to the effect of that excitatory signals from early in life incurred imprints of traumatic experiences (CURSES) can summate not least via concrete and in principle known to exist associations (e.g. 'neurophysioanatomical' ones) with neurons representing later in life ended-up in emotionally painful predicaments - predicaments that may or may not in and off themselves cause a CURSES(-type memory).

    But sure, compounding (neural summing amplification of a more central centre of "excitatory excitation" with a higher and less less central such centre, and the other way around) can be and commonly is a cause of crucial complications.

    You also wrote: "The traumas I discuss are nearly always deprivation of need."

    In this case it is not in any way required that you are cautious about being (too) categorical.

    Moreover, I don't think the word "wavelength" is a helpful - or rationally clarifying - metaphor in this context.
    [Nor do I like the expression "frequency base".]

    But who am I to speak and be grumbling. :>

  6. Hi Art,

    I thought that was a good overview post. And I don't think you're "drowning" anything because you will always have new(er) comers to this blog of yours. It's good for them in particular, I think.

    Can you say anything about the character or nature of never-been neurotics? I'm curious. I didn't think they existed!

    To say, I have always felt [as a child in particular] that the *entire* world I live in is pretty much "Mad Max". Cruel and/or indifferent schoolmates where ever I looked...cold adults who have obviously forgotten what it's like to be a child and who live in a kind of weird ideational stupidity...and the countless teenagers who I could not imagine in a million years ever being capable as parents, because it was so obvious they were still such children themselves and I just knew they would never have children for the "right" reasons.
    That was the picture that grew up with, but maybe a lot of that was/is my own projection - seeing the world through my own childhood? I can never know (for now). But this is why this "mythical" (to me) creature of humanity is curious.

  7. Hello Doctor Janov,

    after reading "What is a feeling" and "Stop the world..." I realized that what's going wrong about economics around the world is mostly the result of our "symbolic behavior" the quest that drives most of us because of our unfullfield needs and it seems that people from China and India are going to take the lead in this symbolic quest for more brand new cars, SUV and bigger houses and money...To get out of the world economic crisis we are told to consume more and more of the things that are supposed to make us less miserable. That's why Capitalism is so powerfull : it's like a secret/untold promise to quell/quench all our chilhood painfull/unmeet needs.We are aware that it is "selfdestructive"(environmentaly speaking)but like an addiction (smoking, drinking, taking drugs...) we can't help/stop it...

  8. Richard: I am away. Write me end of next week. aj

  9. Yann: You might find that the Chinese become obsessed with wealth no matter what they finally get, because too many of them have a "poverty imprint"(?). So they could be even worse than us!
    Alas, deprivation is the "root of all evil".

  10. Yann I don't see how that's relevant to anything however why is it automatically assumed that a perfect mind reading surrogate decision maker and planner in a far off place telling people what to do by threats and compulsion not out of need and symbolism, while free people doing things voluntarily have a mental illness? The reverse is far more likely. [1]

    And even lets assume the superstition's true, it doesn't mean they will succeed. To test this fact, you can sit in a corner and be the person be the most symbolically needing person in the world and you wouldn't have one dime. The only way you'd make a lot of dimes is by meeting human needs and creating value for our fellow human beings.

    And first hand I can tell you that after India allowed its people more freedom, the impoverished skeletal people sleeping in the streets, the environmental degradation of no sewage systems and the waste and excrement of using animal drawn transportation, the glossy eyed lack of spontaneity in the people have completely vanished. To deny people freedom reminds me of a quote by Dr. Janov, "Only academics could deny such a fact and do such an injustice to suffering human beings."



    ... Rage and political philosophy may seem far removed from one another... As a young adult she cultivated a political philosophy that viewed democracy as a outmoded form of organization. Her "reasoning" was that in a democracy you can't get a job done when you want to: "Its too slow and cumbersome." She didn't like the idea of everyone having to have a say; she couldn't stand waiting for all those points of view. This ideological superstructre was later clarified by the feeling, "I can't stand not being able to do what I want when I want." That was the Primal context.

    -Imprints, page 169

    I agree Dr. Janov however I just want to add that nobody believes in democracy in the sense of mob rule, as Dr. Milton Friedman explains in just 60 seconds:

  11. Kaz,

    yes, I get your point of view but think you are confusing political freedom/Democracy and capitalism/consumerism.The point is that consumerism make us believe that we are "free" to buy whatever we need even if we don't really know what we need. Think about all those people saying that shopping make them feel better.It's just the fact that they are buying something that make them "feel good" and you'll get the idea of what I'm writing about...because we, as neurotics are always "needing something" and as you can see in China or Bahrein, wealth and consumerism doesn't always goes along with political freedom/freedom of speech, freedom for women.
    And by the way I'm not a "young and angry activist" sorry about the interesting quote from Doctor Janov's writings but it doesn't describe me at all. At least what I wrote seemed relevant to somebody because it's on this blog, isn't it?
    Democracy has been created about five centuries BC in Greece where there was slaves, free people,rich people and poor people. Only free people could vote because they had the citizenship whether rich or poor. Some kind of Capitalism right but no consumerism and yes freedom of speech for some citizens, freedom for merchants and even speculation already but not on a such devastating scale as in our times. I won't write about the oil spill in Louisiana because you might answer that after all they were just meeting our need to drive around with our cars (I've got one by the way). I'm talking of huge envirommental troubles not about cow shits in the streets and lack of garbage removal policy.
    And I still believe that Capitalism is really powerfull because it can make you think that you are living in a free country after all (whatever is going on in your country) because you can buy whatever you want, that's a usefull tool for politicians. Who talked about mob rule and sanity? not me. I don't feel any kind of rage at all, just sadness in front of what we are doing. You seemed to think that pain and rage is driving me because we don't agree... that's a kind of perverted assumption, don't you think so? I don't understand why you are writing about someone planning things for people("a perfect mind reading surrogate decision maker and planner") unless you assume that my comment was about denying freedom to people which is absolutely not the case. And sorry but I don't believe in any mind reading people of any kind even from a philosophical starting point of view. Hope I wasn't rude in the way I answered to your comment, english is not my native language and I've tried to be as accurate as possible.


    I don't believe in a "poverty imprint" let's talk about lack of food and healthy water for instance. You won't suffer as a child because you don't live in a big house or because your father doesn't drive a Porshe. It's not because you are born in a poor family that you are bound to crave for money as an adult.But of course we have to agree about what is poverty.In the western world you are poor if you can't afford even a used car, have no job, no place to live but at least you can get some food from time to time...that's not the case all over the world.

  12. PART-I

    [Arthur] “Deprivation of emotional need, to be held, caressed, looked at, talked to, won’t necessarily be a life and death matter but emotional deprivation can rob us of our humanity.”

    Indeed. Look at the movie, "Citizen Kane." A boy abruptly taken from loving caregivers morphs into an “accomplished,” yet profoundly unhappy man. His dying words were not about his political success or art collection, but a beloved sled.

    [Arthur] “ Pain = pain-killing efforts. No pain, no pain-killing efforts.”

    Reminds me of a quip by a trainer who doesn’t believe in the “character-building” nature of suffering. He said, “Some say ‘No pain, no gain.’ I say, ‘No pain, no pain!’”

    I also like Joseph Heller’s character who countered the bravado of “Better to die on your feet than live on your knees” with “Better to live on your feet than die on your knees.”

    Both quotes stress being happy rather than accepting (and thereby spreading/prolonging?) pain.

    Ah, the things we’ll do for love! Someone mentioned pinpricks. Erin Pizzey wrote about the horror she felt seeing an abused women abuse her own child. She’d stick the baby with safety pins while diapering it. The baby SMILED! It had already contorted itself to cope, “accepting” its mother willfully causing pain. What further horrors awaited that poor child (and those who met him/her later in life)?

    [Arthur] “We have seen and measured patients whose brainwaves are extremely fast. For them to even get close to feeling they have to be able to slow down to get down into the feeling/primal zone.”

    Most companies now advertise jobs that are “fast-paced” and require “multi-tasking.” Makes me shudder. Who in their right mind (and feeling heart) wants to work in that kind of environment? It’s like bragging that you can eat a 10-course French feast in 10 minutes. What’s the point: Not to feel? To prove you're a robot?

    How many CEOs use their corporate “success” to compensate for unmet early needs? How many expect underlings to emulate their Self-denying, neurotic, unhappy lifestyles (deathstyles, really)?

    [Arthur] “Often, if the therapist has a stake at producing deep feelings in the patient so he can look good, the patient will be pushed beyond her ability and suffer.”

    I experienced that first-hand with faux Primal Therapists. I don’t think any really cared about their patients.

    I feel the same is true per Landmark Education. The so-called “successful” people I’ve met who laud it are overly cerebral. They act like arrogant know-it-alls. One had a child with a rich guy to avoid having to work. Another is always on the go-go-go, living on Red Bull and other stimulants.

    I loathe agenda-driven enterprises, including therapies. They tend to sacrifice humans to abstractions. I prefer Good Samaritanism: Doing the right thing even when it’s deemed “wrong” by your group.

    I also agree with the saying that “Honesty without compassion can mask cruelty.”

    [Arthur] “Once there is access to the feeling it will largely take care of itself.”

    The truth of that often gets lost in “theory.” While the latter is necessary, it’s not sufficient for me to be that useful. Someone had to think up, design, and manufacture the iPod. I’m sure some math was involved. But I just like listening to music on it. Similarly per Primal Therapy: We can forget that the finger pointing at the moon is not the moon. You can explain to a child than Rover’s demise was due to its cells being compacted by the refined ore comprising the dump truck. I doubt doing so will offer much succor. Better to let Junior cry his eyes out over his dead dog.

    Just as feelings need to integrate mental, physical, and other aspects, Primal Therapy needs to combine theory with emotions, compassion, etc. I think it does. It has books, therapists, a physical building and a website with videoclips, chalkboard talks, blog, “experts,” ordinary commenters, etc. It all sorta “works” in ways I've not seen with regard to other "ways."

  13. Art

    Even when you need to change the content… I am overwhelmed by your knowledge… awareness of consciousness ...


  14. There is only one freedom, IMO. The freedom to feel. All the others are symptoms of lacking that one. Sad in any event.

  15. Trevor: Think of feeling as being a switchboard where there are so many connections to feeling centers. the intellectual has few and the artist has many. The feeling person also has many and they are connected to the right place. aj

  16. Jack: Oh you are so right art janov

  17. Hi Folks,
    The comments on this blog and a few earlier ones, strikes a chord with a book I read during the 1970’s. The author, Charles Reich, a lecturer in law at Yale University, had identical ideas, except he thought that drugs should or would have been part and parcel of the “revolution” of which he wrote. My English wasn’t too good so I did not understand too much of it, but I knew it was about revolutions and changes and caring and all the good stuff and I read it over and over.

    If I may quote the first three paragraphs. Makes fascinating reading.....

    “America is dealing death, not only to people in other lands, but to its
    own people. So say the most thoughtful and passionate of our youth, from
    California to Connecticut. This realization is not limited to the new
    generation. Talk to a retired school teacher in Mendocino, a judge in
    Washington, D.C., a housewife in Belmont, Massachusetts, a dude rancher in
    the Washington Cascades. We think of ourselves as an incredibly rich
    country, but we are beginning to realize that we are also a desperately poor
    country -- poor in most of the things that throughout the history of mankind
    have been cherished as riches.”

    “There is a revolution coming. It will not be like revolutions of the past.
    It will originate with the individual and with culture, and it will change
    the political structure only as its final act. It will not require violence
    to succeed, and it cannot be successfully resisted by violence. It is now
    spreading with amazing rapidity, and already our laws, institutions and
    social structure are changing in consequence. It promises a higher reason, a
    more human community, and a new and liberated individual. Its ultimate
    creation will be a new and enduring wholeness and beauty -- a renewed
    relationship of man to himself, to other men, to society, to nature, and to
    the land.”

    “This is the revolution of the new generation. Their protest and rebellion,
    their culture, clothes, music, drugs, ways of thought, and liberated life-
    style are not a passing fad or a form of dissent and refusal, nor are they
    in any sense irrational. The whole emerging pattern, from ideals to campus
    demonstrations to beads and bell bottoms to the Woodstock Festival, makes
    sense and is part of a consistent philosophy. It is both necessary and
    inevitable, and in time it will include not only youth, but all people in

    “The logic and necessity of the new generation -- and what they are so
    furiously opposed to -- must be seen against a background of what has gone
    wrong in America. It must be understood in light of the betrayal and loss of
    the American dream, the rise of the Corporate State of the 1960's, and the
    way in which that State dominates, exploits, and ultimately destroys both
    nature and man. Its rationality must be measured against the insanity of
    existing "reason" -- reason that makes impoverishment, dehumanization, and
    even war appear to be logical and necessary. Its logic must be read from the
    fact that Americans have lost control of the machinery of their society, and
    only new values and a new culture can restore control. Its emotions and
    spirit can be comprehended only by seeing contemporary America through the
    eyes of the new generation.”

    IMO, this revolution was only partially successful in that it brought about some
    important changes such as the acceptance of long hair and more (or total) freedom
    regards clothes we wear, music we listen to, also more freedom of speech etc. It
    also engendered somewhat more feeling societies, the results of which we can still see as ongoing today. Worldwide, it caused a number of suppressive governments to
    collapse and created much more awareness amongst ordinary people.

    Alas, the military/industrial/producer/consumer complex is almighty powerful. I do
    despair and often believe that no change, such as we all wish for, will ever happen.

  18. I thought Art's comment to Trevor was a much better explanation.

    Now all we need to do is write yet another book...this time it will have the wording of a careful lawyer (intellectual), but the words will paint an accurate picture (artist).

    To begin we must avoid using these words: feel, feeling, primal
    Never use those words again unless they are used in a way that newcomers would expect.

    The words 'feel' and 'feeling' encourage the time-consuming argument: "But I CAN feel!"

    The word 'primal' conjures up distracting images before we have even begun to talk about it. Worse still, it associates real therapy with mock therapy.

    To keep things simple, we should use MORE words.
    Instead of feel, feeling or primal, we should use these words: "FULLY EXPERIENCE" ended with either "LIFE" or "TRAUMATIC MEMORY"

    For example:
    Arthur Janov can tell which patients can feel and which ones cannot.
    Arthur Janov can tell which patients are able to FULLY EXPERIENCE A TRAUMATIC MEMORY.
    Arthur Janov can tell which patients are now able to FULLY EXPERIENCE THEIR LIFE.

    Another acceptable example:
    "I get these awful FEELINGS of isolation. I wish I could FULLY EXPERIENCE them"

    Another acceptable example:
    For a writer who can FULLY EXPERIENCE, it is better that he writes in his natural style, and lets a 'lawyer' rewrite it afterwards.

    My brother is playing some old eighties pop music. It's giving me a good feeling. It will be even better when I can fully experience it.

  19. A few days ago I was reading an article written by a journalist about Alcoholics Anonymous, on the occasion of its 75 th birthday.The whole article was a confused amalgam of various speculations about the sources of alcoholism, why AA does or does not work, genetics, group therapy, Science and God, and all the rest of it. It was not the journalist's fault there was all this confusion; it's because the whole field of "mental health" is so confused. After reading this hopeless article, I could just think how a person really sufferring from bad alcoholism would possibly feel: afraid and despairing in the face of the confusion about treament. Now compare that AA article with the above great and clarifying article by Dr Janov (typical of his writings): like night and day. The problem from a practical point of view is that there a few Primal therapists, and AA, with its ideas as opiates, is everywhere; a reflection of our sorry world where , as Matthew Arnold put it in his great poem "Dover Beach", there is "little help for pain".


  20. Art

    If we ask ourselves when everything went wrong (if it went wrong) so that we have developed defenses against ourselves ... we must also ask ourselves whether it is in the evolutionary reason why the defense needs for us to develop ... which feels very challenging to get around to participate in. Art I think you are on track and if I am... with my eagerness to move forward can be of any help with my questions I am at your service.


  21. Art

    If we ask ourselves when everything went ”wrong” (if it went wrong) as we developed defenses against ourselves ... we must also ask whether it is of evolutionary reason or not? If the defense was needed for us to develop ... which feels very challenging to get around to participate in. Art I think you are on track to a question we all should finde werry much intresting. If I with my eagerness to move forward can be of any help with my questions I am at your service.


  22. Jack (and Doctor Janov) I do agree about your statement which is right in our emotional and personal life but we are not living in a "primal world" and so many people just don't care about feelings or just don't know what it is.We have to put up with the consequences of that. In the end it always sounds to me like "let's get a primal therapy and try to care about ourselves and people we care for" which is maybe the best/only way...Once i've read an old piece of indian litterature. It was about the meaning of human life and it says that many people are trying to "take a hold on stars" but that a man should not hope nothing more than getting a loving woman and be happy and have children with her. The deepest and most meaningfull way to live our life.

  23. I found this work of Rune Henriksen, Norway on the internet " 2?Fog of Warriors?; What Made Vietnam Multi-Tour Veterans Go Back for More?". It is 70 years since WW2 started. Wars causes lot of pain on people and I found this work interesting.
    Here is the link:

    I am from Lofoten, Norway and I am a teacher. I was patient at Primal institute in 1983 and 61 years old. I enjoy following your blog.
    Rune Henriksen is from a neighboring village.

  24. Freedom?

    There is only one freedom ... freedom to feel. All the others are symptoms from loss of it. Solitude we never got to feel through love from mom ... liberation to life for pleasure to others. We live in symptoms of pain without it... a symptom that led us to pursue life ... throughout life.


  25. Hermanno: Hi. Thanks. Keep in touch art janov

  26. Frank: By George you got it! Freedom to feel that is lifesaving. And many other symptoms arise when you cannot. AJ

  27. Patrick, I think the long hair and beads only helped to create an unnecessary separation between the hippies and the conformists. John Lennon became very popular, but he wasn't popular with the people he was fighting against.
    We need to find ways to make it fun for intellectuals to learn primal theory.

  28. "There is a picture of him in the paper; he is very very fat. So he manages to cut down on pain by stuffing his face with food"

    haha no love for our public masters, er.. I mean servants Dr. Janov? You should listen to what our annointed have to say for our own good you know, they're much better people than us boorish non intellectuals, they are doing it from the goodness of their heart and altruism, not for evil profit.

    "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." -C.S. Lewis

    "Washington State has pretty much decided the same thing. The abuse they say is too widespread, and it may be, but what about those who need it and are not abusing it? How can they tell the difference? Did they know how much pain killers I need? No they don’t. Only I do and I do."

    this is kind of like my post on mind reading surrogate decision makers?? because I got that from President Reagan haha


    "So we all suffered. We suffered because men from the state capitol, who obviously managed to cover their pain, decided we didn’t need it."

    (okay, I can feel the subtle but strong anxiety coming up from disagreeing, and I normally wouldn't say it but this issue of healthcare is just too important)

    suffering??? that's so cynical, I thought very very fat government bureaucrats interfering and running healthcare for "free" was a great thing. since you're not supposed to say things that people or patients haven't said, I'll just say: "The domain of the cynic is a stained mind who does see evil lurking everywhere. And who, it is presumed, has the kind of mind that can also concoct evil. You know “it takes one to know one.”

  29. Yann, I see what you mean but those are what you'd call positive problems. Its funny that all the whining about "The Poor"(TM) have gone out the window without one single thought about how and what system caused that happen without the standard "have hammer, see nail" idea of steal from one give handouts to someone else. Now they've just moved onto the next crusade of how they rich they are. Check out this simple 2 and half minute video:

    "IN THE ONLY CASES in which the masses have escaped from the kind of grinding poverty you’re talking about, the only cases in recorded history are where they have had Capitalism and largely free trade. If you want to know where the masses are worst off, it’s exactly in the kinds of societies that depart from that. So that THE RECORD OF HISTORY IS ABSOLUTELY CRYSTAL CLEAR: that there is no alternative way so far discovered of improving the lot of the ordinary people that can hold a candle to the productive activities that are unleashed by a free enterprise system."

    -Dr. Milton Friedman, with a Nobel Prize in part for the monetary history of societies

    "Indeed. Look at the movie, "Citizen Kane." A boy abruptly taken from loving caregivers morphs into an “accomplished,” yet profoundly unhappy man. His dying words were not about his political success or art collection, but a beloved sled."

    hi Trevor, I'm not so sure if drawing inferences from fiction Hollywood movies and actors to reality is such a good idea. In my mind there is no difference whatsoever between a person sitting down in a fiction creationist institution every week and someone sitting down on the weekends to a Hollyood movie. Here are a few good books:

    Hollywood vs. America
    Left of Hollywood: Cinema, Modernism, and the Emergence of U.S. Radical Film Culture
    Progressive Hollywood
    Red Star Over Hollywood: The Film Colony's Long Romance with the Left
    Reel Racism: Confronting Hollywood's Construction of Afro-American Culture
    The World According To Hollywood
    Hollywood Nation: Left Coast Lies, Old Media Spin, and New Media Revolution
    Greedy, Cowardly, and Weak: Hollywood's Jewish Stereotypes
    Hollywood and Anti-Semitism: A Cultural History up to World War II
    Tales from the Left Coast: True Stories of Hollywood Stars and Their Outrageous Politics
    Blacklisting Myself: Memoir of a Hollywood Apostate in the Age of Terror
    The Hollywood Economist: The Hidden Financial Reality Behind the Movies


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.