Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Conversion Experience

The conversion experience is an important aspect of belief systems. Due to one cataclysmic event, a person "sees the light" and is inalterably changed. As a rule, this epiphanic moment happens suddenly, converting the individual from a suffering, despairing human being into someone who has found peace and salvation. It is a seemingly magical experience that appears to happen without rhyme or reason.

Many of my patients have talked about their earlier conversions. Things must be going badly — this is the sine qua nonfor the conversion experience. Further, the difficulties must have endured for some time before the defense system begins to crumble. The individual's current situation, compounded with past trauma, becomes more than the person can handle. Suddenly there is breakdown and conversion.

I recall how one patient put it: "I was broke, divorced and alone for some time. One day, sitting in the park alone at dusk, I felt something grab me and I screamed out all to myself, 'I’ve been saved!' What I discovered later in therapy was that I had been saved from a feeling that I was never saved, that my parents let me drown in my misery without so much as batting an eye. They did nothing to help me, turned me out at the age of 15 because I didn't behave, and let me flounder in life through drugs and alcohol without once reaching out to help.”

Naked before this neglect, unloved, alone, she fled into the arms of the mystical, where she no longer felt alone or unloved. Now that she had been saved, she no longer had to feel that there was no one to save her from her childhood hell. She now had renewed hope, the same hope she had lost very early in her life. This was the essence of her conversion; she had converted hopelessness into hope.

Therein lies the paradigm for the conversion experience. I call it a primal crisis. It usually occurs to people when they are in enormous pain or on the brink of it. It is really the snapping point and it occurs when the person can no longer defend. There's nothing else left for her to do but to be "saved" by God.

Very often, when my patients are on the verge of tremendous feelings, particularly the feelings that predate verbal abilities, they begin to shake and tremble enormously; they thrash and writhe as the force of the pain almost lifts them off the ground. One patient, while convulsing violently, screamed out that she felt a "force" shaking her. Finally she cried, "I’ve been saved, I’ve been saved!"

This occurred during a personal crisis, a period of utmost despair and hopelessness. For weeks she had been seriously contemplating suicide. Finally, her conversion experience told why she was suffering so much. By being "born again," she had been "saved" — saved from the discovery that she had absolutely no one in her life, not now, not ever. Her "rebirth" spared her the profound hopelessness that comes with the realization that she was utterly alone in an indifferent universe, that no one loved her.

Why do people tremble and shake while undergoing "religious conversion?” It's really a very short leap from the feeling fueling these convulsions to sensing a new, magical, benevolent force that controls one's destiny. It is childhood pain converted to a belief in childhood magic, the belief that anything is now possible. The form doesn't matter: Jesus, Buddha, Allah, pyramid power, communication with an omniscient seer from centuries past. One is now in another realm, another universe.

What we see in the conversion experience is how pliable feelings are; how easily they are turned into ideas and how those ideas have the strength of feeling. This process is not as freakish as one might imagine, since it aids in survival.


  1. Art

    So… cognitive therapies "saves" lives... “saving” lives to be preserved in their illness... a psychological manifestation of physiologically content... a manifestation retention on the earth as flat as a pancake until the day mankind will destroy itself.


  2. Art,

    Thank you very much for posting this.
    You are ingenious. It could be seen because you are developing such complex and contemplate theory based on the work for more than 40 years. You are helping people. Your books helped me to understand life, to get from life something I really want and need, and to have state about a lot in my life based on truth and honesty and little bit simplicity, but not stupidity and naivety.
    To understand your books we need natural intelligency, empathy, and to be honest toward truth.
    You are, as I can see from your work, enthusiastic, filantropic, altruistic...
    It is very noble to help people.
    I cant read any more articles from other scientists, who pray to god and still believe in Evolution, who have shallow theories about pieces, yet they are respected more, more than you from larger community. they dont have solutions, or they have instant solutions talking to your mind and lef brain...
    You are one of the greatest.

    I think we need different approach to some sciences and different scientific establishment.

    I wish you all the best

  3. Dr. Janov,

    Very important and strait to the point. I love it.

    It is always the powerless, the underdog, the one who feels worthless, the one who never found its own identity (buried under a mountain of trauma) who surrenders to a pyramid power.

    The idea that we have an identity must be dismissed, because the pattern of trauma is the imprint worthlessness and that we are nothing without God.

    The success of religion is to use this primal experience (coming close to who we really of our disabling pain) as a God send enlightenment, to stay in power.


  4. I don't think there has ever been before an attempt to explain psychologically the epiphany experience (seeing the light). I see it as a last ditch attempt to hold back on rising pain from the subconscious and only makes sense to anyone having had a re-living experience and integrating it. It becomes so easy to pass it off as supernatural--the real meaning is too unbearable to contemplate--except that to do so actually offers the ultimate relief. It's perhaps possible that Danny Wilson was not the first to go through a full re-living experince, but no-one, it seems, ever talked or wrote about it until 1967.

    It perhaps sounds super arrogant to suggest that all religious, spiritual and supernatural explanations are merely rising feelings that the defense system is compelled to reject, and give an explanation--though absurdly irrational--but not uncommon. It is the common-ness of it, that gives it credence. We now know better, as a result of Primal Theory, but the acceptance of that better-knowing is slow to become acceptable.

  5. Art

    It is amazing that we can be so close to our feelings… yet they are led away to something completely different. It really shows that the pain at the moment is overwhelming ... so overwhelming that the process of life… virtually wiping out itself. Today ... with the good memory of that primal therapy exists it can be said that there is a fundamental human abuse that happens in our churches ... but who dares to stand up for the liberation as the belief in God means… against a tremendous pain? Madness around the world is frightening. I can still imagine that there are ways to capture this suffering before ending up in a conviction of god.


  6. And I guess similarly that goes on to a degree when we come to therapy "Save me Art!" In the 1980s I met a number of people who were pissed that Primal didn't 'save' them in the way expected. Ah well, at least we still have Superman!

    Brian Collecott
    London, UK.

  7. I think feeling depressed and in despair is what happens when the world does not make sense and therefore a persons relationship to experience threatens the current ego organisation. A religious experience may help give coherence and meaning by the illusion that a divine caregiver is on your side. This may aid survival only in the sense of restoring social function and a feeling of positivity. But the illusion means the person is more remote from perceiving the world as it is that he was before. In this sense it is a less adaptive state, e.g. it may promote less caution than necessary because you think god is on your side. When it comes to letting go and restoring feeling the belief will be threatened again in a therapeutic context.

  8. Because of a technical difficulty I am not sure that some comments I made yesterday in fact did get to Dr Janov. So here goes again:

    I found this article fascinating and so important , and all writings by Dr Janov on belief systems potentially revolutionary in their cultural consequences.What Janov describes in the first paragraph is exactly what happenned to Bill Wilson, a founder of the Alcoholics Anonymous organisation, while he was in a hospital for the upteenth time due to the consequences of a painful life and alcoholism. All AA people ,though, think that he actually did have an encounter with God, and explaining away his experience would totally undermine that organisation`s foundations. Well, if Science triumphs, that will inevitably happen, all for the good; in the meantime they continue to convert and not drink, and now we know why...

    I have one big question though: what is the difference between this breakdown of defenses leading to conversion, and the breakdown in defenses leading to some liberation with Primal? Is it like with LSD: that the person on the way to converting is too overloaded with ascending Pain , and so shuts down with a conversion and symbolisation?


  9. Art,

    It is truly amazing what you write ... quite buff term incredible ... we are caught off guard by our own internal incapacity of "knowledge"... knowledge about the content of pain… which is the consequence of the choice of God as relief from suffering ... we "know" about god but we do not know about primal therapy. What I mean is... the dissemination of information about primal therapy must take off ... to find ways of spreading information. I return to my wish of how... we must get a commercial representation ... limited to information from The Primal Center?


  10. Dear Art ,i wonder why on earth the "victims...? of an epiphany in general do function in their lives (profession and school/university career) and some of them crumble in psychic pieces -like
    my diseased friend .
    I remember once driving with him to see his doctor and suddenly he told me "let`s look whether I am God or not" and then he drove right
    on the car before us !!
    A female friend of mine could finish her university studies o n l y with her catholic epiphany conversion otherwise "she would gone crazy..!"
    And why do I -"free -thinker ...forgive my self
    boasting... did it not in life ?
    yours emanuel

  11. Incredible !! It seems this text give me an answer I was looking for a long time to understand how it was possible .... I couldn’t understand what helped me to change so immediately after my two suicide attempts (in 1993) with a week interval the first one from the second one.
    .......”It is really the snapping point and it occurs when the person can no longer defend. There's nothing else left for her to do but to be "saved" by God.....”
    Here I have a little problem because I do not belive in God.

  12. Frank: All I can do is write and think. I leave it to all of you to promote. Art Janov

  13. Marco: I will write more on this soon. AJ

  14. Marco: I could answer but for now I will leave it to the brilliant readers to provide answers. AJ

  15. Brian. I think you will find that most of those people went to mock therapists and thought they were experiencing primal. Not often the case. art janov

  16. Nenad: Well thank you. If my work helps it is all I ask. art janov

  17. Sieglinde: always wonderful comments. art janov

  18. Sabina. that is indeed a small problem. art janov

  19. Marco,

    Not to suggest I'm brilliant, but I'll have a go with your question...

    I think you had it right with the LSD thing (Bad trip from LSD = chemically induced psychotic episode? I think that would be right).

    The individual in a "conversion experience" can't cope (their defences are seriously breaking down) and is getting too close to severe early trauma/s that they are [not yet] able to integrate. This leaves the defence system with no choice but to heavily symbolise (just like in a psychotic episode). The symbolism is ultimately the brains way of dissociating consciousness from the direct experience of the repressed pain. The conversion experience a serious compromise because the individual is forced to become even more divorced from reality, but it can be a necessary 'emergency' compromise so it happens anyway.

    If the subject were in fact able to integrate their pain then they would indeed probably Primal. That's all primal is - approaching pains that you are ready to integrate, and therefore will.

    I would guess that Art would say that conversion experiences are what happens when you 'buck evolution' - that is, confront serious pains before you're ready to.

  20. Hi everybody,

    Religion is legally paranoid, not condemned by society, yet desirable in every almost culture in the world?
    Do I have opponent in this statement?


  21. Nenad: France says it is institutionalized hope. Or as I say, it is socially approved delusion. AJ

  22. May I comment:
    Religion is co-dependency indoctrinated - for traumatized people with no identity.
    Another form of delusional disorder ICD 10: F22.0 or 297.1

  23. Don't trust Janov? My cousin Marion had wild suspicions until she saw Janov talking on a TV show. She said "You know what, Richard? He was actually sooo cool".
    She admired his ability to speak in such a normal and effortless way. Marion is always very interested in personalities. She still shows little interest in life-saving information (because I try to force the information down her throat).
    During the TV show, her previous thoughts of "freaky cult leader" were instantly destroyed. Now she listens more to her own feelings (sometimes I wish she wouldn't), instead of all the people who try to convince her that Primal Therapy is crap (none of those people have read anything on Primal Therapy).
    Marion is waiting for me to do it first before she makes a decision. that's quite a leap from "freaky cult leader". I think videos have the ability to tap into a person's intuition. That's why I am looking forward to the primal documentary (no hurry) so I can show it to a few special people. I MUST convert them.

  24. Marco

    If and when you start with primal therapy… you will understand the parable between primal therapy ... god and drugs. The pain is what will make you understand the difference...god and drugs provides an instant "gratification" that will not primal therapy.


  25. Marco

    Just by daily terns touch feelings... feelings of pain... it will do a difference in the way I look at things… not least my courage changes. Feelings of fear in memory of hopelessness… sort of blurs my daily feelings… feelings of shyness etc… but it also makes coloring sharper. This remembers me of what Art ones said “you don’t need drugs to live… you need drugs because you don’t live.


  26. Andrew: Your clear explanation sounds plausible to me, and confirms what I thought. Our good Dr J. backs your explanation, so my confusion is resolved.

    Frank: thank you also for your comments.

    I like what Madame Janov has to say about religion as "institutionlised hope", or "socially approved delusion" as Janov says (aside - Mme Janov, ne pourrait-elle pas venir ici nous parler parfois?). No wonder these delusions of a sick society had always confused me and enraged me! My only quibble with her use of the word hope, and the way Dr Janov usually uses it in his writings, is that this so-called "hope" is a false hope, a compensatory drug-like "hope", perhaps to be very clearly distinguished from the true hope of the more open human being that has faced, to a certain extent, his unconscious despair, Pain, or whatever you want to call it.

    Nenad also makes the important point that almost all human cultures seem to have these religions, which begs the question as to why human beings seem to be so sick on the whole.I often ponder that question. There is perhaps another distinction , though, that needs to be made between the religions of so-called "civilised" people like in our Western civilsation, and the religions of "primitive" peoples which seem to be on the whole more "pantheistic". Reich though that the dynamics of these latter where different from "civilised" religions and wrote about this in one of his books. He was very influenced by an anthropologist named Malinowski, while the Freudians at the time had their pet anthropologist, Geza Roheim (?), who used Freud's theories to "analyse" these "primitive" cultures. But I don't know enough about anthropology , and this aspect of Reich's work, to say more than that.


  27. Sieglinde: I've often wondered about this "identity" thing. I don't know if I have one as such, or even want one.

    Is an identity a reality or a kind of subjective decision? I'm not sure. I notice people don't listen to certain kinds of music (and other) if it doesn't integrate with their 'identity', and that kind of behaviour to me often seems like a kind of unnatural suppression - that is, the identity regulates what we do and do not respond to, and in what kind of way.

    I'm suspicious that what we recognise as an identity may be (or can be) only a defence in its own right.

  28. Dear Art,
    You are probably aware of this recent article
    about the role of epigenetics in psychiatric disorders, but just in case I am sending this link. In a few years, much will become known about the effect of early traumas on gene methylation, etc., and the possible reversal by drugs or environmental conditions.

  29. Marco: If you want France to come and lecture in France you need to get a group of people who can pay just her expenses to get there. There is no salary asked for. AJ

  30. "a primal crisis...usually occurs to people when they are in enormous pain or on the brink of it. It is really the snapping point and it occurs when the person can no longer defend."

    And so...what?

    Is the solution to face the black hole of nothingness and commit suicide?

    Do you know anyone, really, who lives without hope?

    What is hope-less life about? Buddhists monks promoted "detachment" while using children as sex and labor slaves. They also said life was ephemeral while building stone temples decorated in gold. Hypocrites? All too human? What?

    What if the "despairing" person finds that love is as real as "nothingness"?

    Why cry if nothing means anything? Are tears just for cleaning our eyes?

    Whenever I read philosophers/writers who say life has no meaning, I know they've not been loved enough. Only someone who is unloved would try to deny the existence and power of love. All the books in the world can't contain the love in one Granny hug.

    Maybe that's the problem: A zillion "art" objects can't fill the hole in one's soul caused by the loss of a Rosebud sled.

    Religions aren't wrong because they espouse hope. They err when they try to prevent congregations from feeling and expressing real feelings. Hope is real because love is real. Trying to deny hope is just another way to try to moderate the pain of needing and not getting. It's an attempt to kill need.

    If you think life has no meaning you are saying you aren't loved.

    Even if the "universe" were created by El Retardo (a blind unfeeling block of endless obsidian), so what? We still love and feel and need.

    If nothing matters, why do children cry when pets die? Why aren't they content being told Fido morphed into inert matter composed of x chemicals?

    It's not cloth that makes teddy bears important.

    Primal Therapy runs the risk of becoming too intellectual. It can become as "stuck" as cognitive therapy. I mean, c''mon: Did Immanuel Kant ever get laid? Is soma subservient to psyche? I"m not advocating pure sensualism, just saying over-thinking is no better than sexual compulsion.

    We hear a lot about dysfunction. What does "healthy" living look like? What is "good enough"? Is PT now the "one and only true way," Art as Jesus-Moses-Mohammed-Buddha-Krishna?

    Sometimes, when the world is too much with me, I put on Kurt Elling's "The Best Things Happen While You're Dancing" and feel great. Does that mean I'm effed-up? Should I be staring at blank walls, instead, "getting" the futility and pain of life?

  31. DR Janov: My invitation was for your wife to come and exchange with us here on this blog, not to come and lecture where I live, which is in Quebec, not France. Sorry if I was not clear. But, come to think about it,that might be an interesting project to plan a lecture for her. However, since I am in no professionnal milieu, know no one into Primal in Quebec apart from one person in your network, and know of no other sponsoring organisations here as yet that would be interested in such a lecture,I would have to put that off for the long-term future.

    One last thing: I alluded , in one of my posts on this thread, to the typical conversion experience that Bill Wilson, a founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, underwent, as a pillar of the AA organisation's approach. Someone pointed out to me that perhaps one key aspect of this otherwise typical conversion was that the drug belladonna , an hallucinogen (I beleive), was administered to him just before his conversion (there were some experiments going on with the drug for alcoholics at that time).Perhaps what happenned to him was more akin to what happens to some of those taking LSD ,than a "pure" conversion experience (or are these experiences perhaps basically the same thing, in the Primal sense?). Bill Wilson, by the way, took some LSD with Aldous Huxley in the early 50's , which threw many in the AA organisation for a loop, considering their drug- abstinence orientation.


  32. Here is my (here always relevant) opinion:

    A more or less curative ‘primal therapeutic replay’ of a long-previously automatically made ‘recording’ of - or replay of what was in the past ‘conditioned-in’ by - a “traumatizing” or, more precisely put, not just a “specific hibernation (SH) imploring” but SH-inducing combination of milieu factors, can only occur if the 'LTP’ed (Long Termed Potentiated) output of excitatory signals *aspect*' of the totality of the conditioned-in aftermath of such a predicament (or ordeal or adverse challenge of this type) is thereby made (or induced) to undergo highly specific LTP-extinguishing change (plausibly involving the endocannabinoid system) OR, if the primal therapeutically facilitated “replay” leads to that the same “conditioned-in” central neural source of motivation receives highly specific inhibitory feedback from neurons recruited FOR THE FIRST TIME by help of a properly primal-therapeutically provided facilitation of such a most-precise feedback within a “PTSD-plagued” person’s actention selection serving system.

    The “LTD’ed (Long Term Depressed) aspect” of by traumatic predicaments conditioned-in Pain (primal pain) the ASSS will thereby also tend to ‘wither away’.

    If someone think they have a better science-aligned hypothesis, please let me (Art and the rest of us who have some sort of penchant for primal therapy) know about it!

  33. Hi Art,

    This is wonderfull!!
    There is one intelectualist here in Serbia who says that there is in every human being property of "homo religiosis". It means that every person have need to believe in something.
    What do you think about that? Still, we have cortex and thinking mind and abstract mind, we are not without that parts of we use these parts, and we believe, plan, think, judge risks of something etc...
    Being religious does not means necessary, believing in god, we can believe in something rational and real:for example: love and hope(which are also used by bible) and theories which our brain suggests to us, which are not necessary irrational, just because we believe, right or wrong?

    It is better to read and believe and to use Art Janov's work than Bible, because it is advanced in my criterium, realistic, and also can give a hope for better tommorow(if you go to Primal therapy or trying to act normally in harmony with Primal)

    We dont need super being, faith in that being, someone who will save us in our mind from approaching cataclism...
    There is mundanely theory, which also good encompassing, right?


  34. Trevor, you are getting what I write backwards. Look in my Primal Healing and Biology of Love about love. OK? art janov


Review of "Beyond Belief"

This thought-provoking and important book shows how people are drawn toward dangerous beliefs.
“Belief can manifest itself in world-changing ways—and did, in some of history’s ugliest moments, from the rise of Adolf Hitler to the Jonestown mass suicide in 1979. Arthur Janov, a renowned psychologist who penned The Primal Scream, fearlessly tackles the subject of why and how strong believers willingly embrace even the most deranged leaders.
Beyond Belief begins with a lucid explanation of belief systems that, writes Janov, “are maps, something to help us navigate through life more effectively.” While belief systems are not presented as inherently bad, the author concentrates not just on why people adopt belief systems, but why “alienated individuals” in particular seek out “belief systems on the fringes.” The result is a book that is both illuminating and sobering. It explores, for example, how a strongly-held belief can lead radical Islamist jihadists to murder others in suicide acts. Janov writes, “I believe if people had more love in this life, they would not be so anxious to end it in favor of some imaginary existence.”
One of the most compelling aspects of Beyond Belief is the author’s liberal use of case studies, most of which are related in the first person by individuals whose lives were dramatically affected by their involvement in cults. These stories offer an exceptional perspective on the manner in which belief systems can take hold and shape one’s experiences. Joan’s tale, for instance, both engaging and disturbing, describes what it was like to join the Hare Krishnas. Even though she left the sect, observing that participants “are stunted in spiritual awareness,” Joan considers returning someday because “there’s a certain protection there.”
Janov’s great insight into cultish leaders is particularly interesting; he believes such people have had childhoods in which they were “rejected and unloved,” because “only unloved people want to become the wise man or woman (although it is usually male) imparting words of wisdom to others.” This is just one reason why Beyond Belief is such a thought-provoking, important book.”
Barry Silverstein, Freelance Writer

Quotes for "Life Before Birth"

“Life Before Birth is a thrilling journey of discovery, a real joy to read. Janov writes like no one else on the human mind—engaging, brilliant, passionate, and honest.
He is the best writer today on what makes us human—he shows us how the mind works, how it goes wrong, and how to put it right . . . He presents a brand-new approach to dealing with depression, emotional pain, anxiety, and addiction.”
Paul Thompson, PhD, Professor of Neurology, UCLA School of Medicine

Art Janov, one of the pioneers of fetal and early infant experiences and future mental health issues, offers a robust vision of how the earliest traumas of life can percolate through the brains, minds and lives of individuals. He focuses on both the shifting tides of brain emotional systems and the life-long consequences that can result, as well as the novel interventions, and clinical understanding, that need to be implemented in order to bring about the brain-mind changes that can restore affective equanimity. The transitions from feelings of persistent affective turmoil to psychological wholeness, requires both an understanding of the brain changes and a therapist that can work with the affective mind at primary-process levels. Life Before Birth, is a manifesto that provides a robust argument for increasing attention to the neuro-mental lives of fetuses and infants, and the widespread ramifications on mental health if we do not. Without an accurate developmental history of troubled minds, coordinated with a recognition of the primal emotional powers of the lowest ancestral regions of the human brain, therapists will be lost in their attempt to restore psychological balance.
Jaak Panksepp, Ph.D.
Bailey Endowed Chair of Animal Well Being Science
Washington State University

Dr. Janov’s essential insight—that our earliest experiences strongly influence later well being—is no longer in doubt. Thanks to advances in neuroscience, immunology, and epigenetics, we can now see some of the mechanisms of action at the heart of these developmental processes. His long-held belief that the brain, human development, and psychological well being need to studied in the context of evolution—from the brainstem up—now lies at the heart of the integration of neuroscience and psychotherapy.
Grounded in these two principles, Dr. Janov continues to explore the lifelong impact of prenatal, birth, and early experiences on our brains and minds. Simultaneously “old school” and revolutionary, he synthesizes traditional psychodynamic theories with cutting-edge science while consistently highlighting the limitations of a strict, “top-down” talking cure. Whether or not you agree with his philosophical assumptions, therapeutic practices, or theoretical conclusions, I promise you an interesting and thought-provoking journey.
Lou Cozolino, PsyD, Professor of Psychology, Pepperdine University

In Life Before Birth Dr. Arthur Janov illuminates the sources of much that happens during life after birth. Lucidly, the pioneer of primal therapy provides the scientific rationale for treatments that take us through our original, non-verbal memories—to essential depths of experience that the superficial cognitive-behavioral modalities currently in fashion cannot possibly touch, let alone transform.
Gabor Maté MD, author of In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction

An expansive analysis! This book attempts to explain the impact of critical developmental windows in the past, implores us to improve the lives of pregnant women in the present, and has implications for understanding our children, ourselves, and our collective future. I’m not sure whether primal therapy works or not, but it certainly deserves systematic testing in well-designed, assessor-blinded, randomized controlled clinical trials.
K.J.S. Anand, MBBS, D. Phil, FAACP, FCCM, FRCPCH, Professor of Pediatrics, Anesthesiology, Anatomy & Neurobiology, Senior Scholar, Center for Excellence in Faith and Health, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare System

A baby's brain grows more while in the womb than at any time in a child's life. Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script That Rules Our Lives is a valuable guide to creating healthier babies and offers insight into healing our early primal wounds. Dr. Janov integrates the most recent scientific research about prenatal development with the psychobiological reality that these early experiences do cast a long shadow over our entire lifespan. With a wealth of experience and a history of successful psychotherapeutic treatment, Dr. Janov is well positioned to speak with clarity and precision on a topic that remains critically important.
Paula Thomson, PsyD, Associate Professor, California State University, Northridge & Professor Emeritus, York University

"I am enthralled.
Dr. Janov has crafted a compelling and prophetic opus that could rightly dictate
PhD thesis topics for decades to come. Devoid of any "New Age" pseudoscience,
this work never strays from scientific orthodoxy and yet is perfectly accessible and
downright fascinating to any lay person interested in the mysteries of the human psyche."
Dr. Bernard Park, MD, MPH

His new book “Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script that Rules Our Lives” shows that primal therapy, the lower-brain therapeutic method popularized in the 1970’s international bestseller “Primal Scream” and his early work with John Lennon, may help alleviate depression and anxiety disorders, normalize blood pressure and serotonin levels, and improve the functioning of the immune system.
One of the book’s most intriguing theories is that fetal imprinting, an evolutionary strategy to prepare children to cope with life, establishes a permanent set-point in a child's physiology. Baby's born to mothers highly anxious during pregnancy, whether from war, natural disasters, failed marriages, or other stressful life conditions, may thus be prone to mental illness and brain dysfunction later in life. Early traumatic events such as low oxygen at birth, painkillers and antidepressants administered to the mother during pregnancy, poor maternal nutrition, and a lack of parental affection in the first years of life may compound the effect.
In making the case for a brand-new, unified field theory of psychotherapy, Dr. Janov weaves together the evolutionary theories of Jean Baptiste Larmarck, the fetal development studies of Vivette Glover and K.J.S. Anand, and fascinating new research by the psychiatrist Elissa Epel suggesting that telomeres—a region of repetitive DNA critical in predicting life expectancy—may be significantly altered during pregnancy.
After explaining how hormonal and neurologic processes in the womb provide a blueprint for later mental illness and disease, Dr. Janov charts a revolutionary new course for psychotherapy. He provides a sharp critique of cognitive behavioral therapy, psychoanalysis, and other popular “talk therapy” models for treating addiction and mental illness, which he argues do not reach the limbic system and brainstem, where the effects of early trauma are registered in the nervous system.
“Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script that Rules Our Lives” is scheduled to be published by NTI Upstream in October 2011, and has tremendous implications for the future of modern psychology, pediatrics, pregnancy, and women’s health.