Monday, May 16, 2011

On a Unified Field Theory in Psychology

Toward the end of Albert Einstein’s career he was searching for a unified theory that would encompass and explain diverse aspects of the heavens, the planets, stars and space and time. In a way I feel we have backed into a unified field theory in psychology that explains quite diverse behaviors, disparate and seemingly unrelated symptoms and illnesses and deviations from normal over a wide expanse of human interaction.

It seems now that Primal Theory has made an important beginning step in this field theory. As it becomes refined it will apply more broadly to an ever-expanding human universe. It will show us how the various disciplines, biology, psychology and neurology intersect and interact. How certain psychologic states alter the neurology and vice versa. It will demystify the sudden emergence of such afflictions as deep depression and inexplicable panic attacks. It will clarify the origins of migraines and high blood pressure and help us understand the failure syndrome. It will make the relationship between high blood pressure and depression understandable, and help explain the onset of most serious ailments such as cancer and diabetes. It will help reduce the gap between awareness and consciousness and elucidate the role of awareness in psychotherapy. It will point the way to a proper therapy, taking into account the depth of the brain, its levels of consciousness and the key role interactions between and among brain structures play.

It should help prevent false routes, unscientific approaches to mental illness, and offer methods for measuring improvement in psychotherapy that does not rely only on patient reports. Whether implicitly or explicitly most of us professionals are looking for some unified notion of how it all fits together, some explanatory system that makes sense of what we do with patients. And helps us find a way to measure patients’ improvement that encompasses many different disciplines. It helps us break out of the narrow confinement of psychological theories that are studied apart from the human neurobiological systems.

It eliminates the need for insight therapy, so long the backbone of psychotherapy and avoids such drastic measures as electroshock therapy. It helps us understand the role of painkillers and tranquilizers in psychotherapy, when and how to use them, and why? It will stop the nonsense of rehab’s revolving doors, of anger and sex management and other unscientific approaches. It will help the therapist understand his or her role as a professional and not attempt to love neurosis away. Yes, warmth is necessary but it is not curative. Therapy is not do-gooder measures; it is verifiable science at work. We can check and measure each other’s work; we can see if this or that method is workable and measureable. We can finally help the patient get well; really well, not only in his mind but in his brain and body.


  1. I have at several times heard the comment “Arthur Janov is an articulate writer… but that dosen’t prove a science matching”. This... a comment proving the inability to understand content.
    Why is not science in text proving ist science as long as it is not disproven? Obviously... I can see what scope there is for the reluctance but in the case of primal therapy… as a comment on the content of the text… it is by itself of science for what primal therapy treats.


  2. Art: This is your greatest post yet IMO.

    I have long stated that "Primal Theory" IS:- "Unified Field Theory" OR "The Theory of Everything".

    I have just commented on A London Guardian interview with Stephen Hawking. I wish I could get through to him (Hawking) but his gate-keeper kept me locked out. "que lastima" Therein is his life long disease.

    He ran into his own head when he started his studies at Cambridge, England.


    P.S. good luck with your stem cell work.

  3. Dear Art,

    A long time ago I read that a certain controversial teacher of 3 brain systems said -"and don't forget to hide your tail"-.

    Now I always thought that was good advice but (secretly) knew I didn't really understand what it meant. I just resonated with it.

    I was no good at hiding my tail either. I have found out that neurosis just doesn't want to be hidden. Sooner or later, out pops my tail, encoded with traumatic distortions for all to see (or at least those who understand). There I go again with my big mouth/body or my big heart or my very big head!

    But it's the tail that's driving all these in-balances according to your research & development findings.

    People do want to hide their tails for 6 billion explanations. 4 billion of them neurotic.

    It follows that if we can become more normal we would naturally acquire more choice about our tails, perhaps even grow different feathers or fur for the days we do "want a display".

    But I know now that when I become more normal there will be times I definitely will choose to hide my tail. I'm getting better at it already.

    Art, Is not your clinic the tail of your psychotherapeutic industry? Perhaps it's inevitable that so few other 'professionals' want to look at it. They are so mesmerised with their own tail feathers they would not notice.

    All of the very best possible regards.

    Paul G.

  4. Hi,

    Stephen Hawking is about to publish another book. In an interview/review with a UK paper he said: "I thought I was going to die 49 years ago and I've been living with that ever since. There is no God, that is a fantasy that people dream up who are afraid of dying". I'm not frightened of dying. When we do, it's like switching off a light".

    He also goes on to describe a unified theory to explain the random existence of life. This is challenging stuff because it faces us to our existence.

    Paul G.

  5. Art: I don't know if it's appropriate, but I learned in my therapy, where and when appropriate, to say the first thing off the top of my head. I feel Art, you under-sell yourself, suggesting that Primal Theory is;- The Unified Field Theory of Psychology. I contend it IS:- "Unified Field Theory" OR "The Theory of Everything" ... period, end.

    A couple days ago or so, Professor Stephen Hawking considered the great physicist and mathematician of our time, was interviewed by the London Guardian newspaper, suggested that religion was "a fairy tale" that we humans use it to appease our fear of death. I sent in a comment suggesting that 'science, physics, logic' and it's support subject mathematics, was also 'a fairy tale' and that we humans use it to appease our ego's of superiority over other creatures, because we are able to THINK. I further suggested that 'Unified Field Theory' or the 'Theory of Everything' had been formulated way back in 1967 and not in science, physics and/or logic but in psychology. I am not sure he will get to read my comment, but I feel strongly that we humans, suffering the debilitating disease of neurosis and unable to have reasonable access to our feelings, are inundated with many "fairy tales" within our being.


  6. Frank: Sorry I do not understand this. y ou need to get a helper. AJ

  7. A facebook comment:
    "This is so well written Art. You're getting better and better. Particularly like re therapist not loving neurosis away, albeit being warm (kind, caring).Yes, Science!!!"

  8. Another facebook comment:
    "My question to you, sir is how do we open this up to the masses in a way that they are willing to receive this good information."

  9. Art,
    For what you don't understand... I am sorry.

    The National Board in Sweden believes that what you write about in your books is not at all proven to be science. My question to them… “Science as expressed in Janovs text must still bulk something of substance”… substance to be answered on my questions. This they avoided by silence... a very simple way to not show the own inability about the scientific content.
    Being in a emotional state that does not understand the primal therapy's content... is a state in itself that shows the emotional inability of primal therapy's scientific process.
    I have told them that you offer a clinical trial ... but the answers to that are no less surprising.


  10. An email comment:
    "Gosh how I love what you say. :) I hope things will change and a true professionalism will exist in the field of psychology.

    It was your ideas that inspired my thoughts about mythologies, religious fervors, the true source of "visions", and the true connection between those abilities that support our virtues with our emotional/motivational feelings. It doesn't come from the top down, that is oppressive and unrewarding, it must come from the bottom up in terms of becoming "enlightened". This enlightenment isn't bigger than life it just is who we are in life without pain and repression, and it actually improves our connection to our powers of empathy, objectivity, and creativity.

    Einstein also mentioned that goodness, truth, and beauty were the virtues that he valued. Well, for me I tend to think of these things plus one other that I call art. Art is our power of creative thought, the power to see things in a variety of ways and helps us see the beauty of life in spite of its problems. In that power of imagination we enter deeper into ourselves and when it connects to our blocked feelings it isn't because it was causative but permissive of the hurt that seeks to rise to our awareness and create real consciousness. Beauty to me is just the appreciation of the universe, life, others and ourselves. It isn't born from demands by our higher thoughts, it is born through the dialectic you so profoundly elucidate. This dialectic is what joins our virtues in a motivational way with our felt life. How am I doing?

    Everything that elucidates my world, even to seeing the core motivational myths that exist in movies and speeches, I owe to you and your discoveries. I always match what I experience with the understandings which I have had from feeling and from reading your words.

    You are a very successful man and dear to my heart and the hearts of many other suffering men and women in this world.

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart for making my world, a very hurtful and suffering one, just a little brighter."

  11. Professor Stephen Hawking likes to create theories to explain the existence of matter. This is a pointless exercise because the theory will always be based on assumptions that can never be validated. The beginning and end of the universe, in terms of time and matter, is a subject that defies logical thought. There are many paid scientists who cannot see this simple fact because they are confused - lost inside a maze of endless equations.

    Stephen Hawking's research has not contributed anything to the well-being of mankind, other than some science-fiction entertainment. With respect, I must say that his 'science' is a waste of time.

    So why is he such a popular genius? It's because he is a curiosity. His thoughts appear almost magical as they emerge from a paralyzed body. Early on, he intimidated his teachers by forcing them to engage in oral examinations after he refused to take notes. When the teachers became confused, they backed down and gave him the benefit of the doubt, for fear of being ridiculed.

    He has taken his place in the spotlight, free to indulge in thoughts and theories that continue to dazzle his audience. He's a pop star.

    We are in love with science-fiction. Sci-Fi is a safe avenue for spooky self-contemplation. As we allow ourselves to be mildly triggered, we feel that we are getting closer to ourselves. Movie producers often begin their career by making horror-style sci-fi movies because that genre has the lowest financial risk. "The Primal Scream." As I've said's a fantastic name for a blockbuster movie, regardless of whether it's fact or fiction.

    Nowadays Art ruins the movie when he says "Hey everybody, I've discovered how to safely venture into the black hole of the human mind. It's not a magical place at all, and you won't be able to eat popcorn when you enter it."

  12. Richard: Good stuff and good writing. Are you doing it professionally? Art.

  13. thanks Art. (is that a clever way of saying "Richard, what are you doing?")

    i've applied for a 3 year course in computer 3D animation starting Sept. the starting pay rate is pretty good and the demand for that type of work has exploded in recent years, especially as the entertainment industry has always done well during recessions. menial labour jobs just won't make me enough money for therapy unless i live in the back of a car in a los angeles forest (serious consideration). I'm also still trying to finish the five music videos to promote the Hogganort...the laptop was just too slow to process all the HD footage so my brother bought a powerful computer and now it should all be finished soon. the videos will be aired on new zealand's music channel (they struggle to fill their "kiwi music quota" and will broadcast virtually anything homegrown) and hopefully that will give the Hogganort some exposure and show off my broad range of audiovisual skills. (something has gone wrong with my website and now it looks messed up on cellphones....wonderful).

    i've also asked Alia (american girl living here in wellington) to marry me so i can get a green card. she knows i was joking, but i would marry her.

  14. Richard: If you believe, think or otherwise that we humans with our ability to THINK is intrinsic to our being and always has been, then Stephen Hawking and the rest of the scientific community will be searching forever for theories that explain all of our behaviors and IMO are on a wasted mission. I know I have no adherents BUT 'THINKING' is our first and greatest act-out.

    If, as I have conjectured, that THINKING is something that developed (evolved if you like) at the time we became neurotic. A feeling-full creature doesn't need all this "fluff." if we are able to get back to our feeling-full selves which, I contend, is the way we were for the greater part of our existence (evolution), hence my contention that Primal Theory IS;- "The Theory of Everything"

    The journey, for me, is to be as feeling-full as I am able.


  15. About Stephen Hawking

    I wonder if his suffering is for more than his desire to live. He is not afraid of death and he is as far away from life as the universe possible can be… it's as far from his physical condition he can get... A "sense" to live.
    It is in analogy with what we by our self’s do... a metaphor for what life-threatening experiences have brought with it. The difference is in his case… his evasion is socially schizophrenic... in an acceptance that fits into the intellectuals needs ... as we… the rest of us are diagnosed by the forms that fit the symptoms for what our need shows.

    I know Art... my English might not be enough but it's just so interesting to share others 'thoughts'


  16. Hi,

    I agree with Richard and I can see the glaring dismissals Hawking makes. Nevertheless, it's still good that people like him say these things because they challenge our belief systems.

    Personally speaking I feel Hawking offers one true half of a whole truth. When he was asked what he thought the purpose of our lives is he said "To try to make the most value of them". Maybe I get the words slightly wrong.

    What science offers is the opportunity to "model" other ways of perceiving and understanding outside of our range of sensual or temporal sensitivity. This isn't mere allegory or metaphor. Science conditions our minds to prepare for something different, out of range, out of sight. It is possible that the unified theory we all love to chase after is the face of God. I don't know, do you?

    There is something useful to the mechanistic view Hawking promotes, we don't live for ever and it's only a matter of time (or choice) before we finally do decide to "make the best of our lives". That remark has been interpreted many different ways, viva diversity!

    Paul G.

  17. Art, just a note: i'm not doing a 3 year course - that was a typo. it's an intensive one year course (diploma of 3D animation). i want to be at the primal center as soon as i have realistic funds. i know your teeth are falling out and so on. hang in there. drink blanched tomato juice and eat sushi :D

  18. You totally do not convince me Jack,how big you may choose the size of your letters.
    This brain is what we have and that is what we have to deal with.
    All the rest is pure speculation and fantasy of some lost paradise,a pure state.
    You don´t know how it was back then and I would bet it was worse then what we have now.(IMO)

  19. I have written many articles, hundreds of blogs, many books, and I do not know what more to do to get my information out in public. I read the scientific psychology journals and not once is my work ever mentioned nor ever referenced. it is as if I never existed. art janov

  20. I think your work is brilliant Arthur. It's groundbreaking and very simple. If "all" we need do is feel, or experience our pain, for the *first* time in most cases, as we have the ability to freeze and suspend painful experiences, others refuse to understand the importance of such a simple act and fear they may be out of a job. But the simple act of feeling or experiencing our pain is what most of us avoid doing with disastrous consequences individually and as a society. Irish psychiatrist Ivor Browne defines trauma as unexperienced experience, neurologist Antonio Damasio states that "We experience because we have the ability to feel". Well, if we refuse to feel, we'll never experience what is crying out to be felt and resolved. It's as simple, and as complicated, as that.

  21. Hi Noreen. Where are you? Ireland?

  22. Hi Arthur, I'm in Ireland, I'd love to visit your centre one day. Keep up the fantastic work, there are many who appreciate what you're doing and I'm one of them!


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.