Monday, June 13, 2011

More on Self Esteem

Someone told me the other day that she wanted to see a shrink because her feeling about herself is lower than “poo poo,” as she put it. So I asked, “What do you expect her or him to do?” “I don’t know. Help me find out what’s wrong.” They can’t do that because they don’t know how. All they can do is become cheerleaders, “You are capable, you know. You are a good person and I know you can do it.” Blah blah. That kind of help lasts about four minutes because it is battling a lifetime of neglect that makes any of us feel like poo poo.

Why can’t shrinks do it? Because they cannot go deep into the unconscious, deep into history and the brain to find out. Why not? They don’t have the techniques; they don’t know how. Worse, they don’t have the theory. I will give it to them if they want. All they have to do is ask.

Let me give you an idea. A patient was born while the mother was depressed. She did not pick up and cuddle her baby right after birth. She was also depressed while carrying, another weight on the child. The baby in the crib cried but her mother didn’t come; “let her cry it out,” was the mantra. And also the father came with an angry voice and face and told the baby to shut up. In childhood there was no touch, no caring and no love. Get the idea? All this makes the baby feel unimportant, not worthy of anyone’s attention: worthless. I am only touching on a few of thousands of experiences which reinforce that worthless feeling. I will offer my own life. My parents never answered when I called. My mother was hallucinating and delusional and my father was lost in his fantasies. He read the paper at dinner while we were not allowed to talk. This was repeated night after night.

Now how can a shrink offering encouragement counter that? If we cannot delve back in history and feel what all of that did to us how can we cure it? We carry around all of that every day, and the earlier all that occurred the deeper it is in us. Just never having anyone come when he cried in the crib is devastating. The baby is just learning about trust, love and caring; and he doesn’t get it. He can only feel it is him; something is wrong with him. And later they tell him something is wrong with him, or worse, they treat him with indifference as though something is wrong with him. The point is that those feelings set in very early, beginning with no loving right after birth, which sets the prototype of “I am worthless.” It is never articulated but we act it out. We don’t recognize love when it is right in front of us because we don’t know what it is. Or we choose someone lower than us or who is bad for us without understanding that those poo poo feelings dog us and drive our choices and behavior. Imagine: it begins right at birth when we are totally innocent and naïve souls. The feeling is engraved into that innocent system and to never come out again because it is deep in the unconscious.

Now we go to a shrink who knows nothing of our history and is often not interested because his therapy is in the here and now. And it is in the here-and-now because the shrink’s psyche is wholly in the present as he too is bereft of his feeling base. That’s why he is usually a shrink. I became one to cure my mentally ill mother_symbolically. It never happened; and it won’t happen with patients; I know. I was a Freudian therapist for 17 years and cured no one. The word “cure” became an anathema, a no-no. Another wonderful syllogism: we do a therapy that cures no one, therefore “cure” is never our goal. Wonderful.


  1. I like to tell all of you

    You know... what a feeling it was for me to hear Aida say ”I am still here” when she just got out of a feeling… it is amasying. Beeing clost to someone who you know made it… it’s fantastick.


  2. Art: so! all we are left with is what can be done about it? For us already damaged, and that's about every one of us, is:- a re-think about how we rear children. There is no manual and as Art suggest, the shrinks aren't even aware of the problem. Is it possible that someone can write a manual, or better still, is there some way to to get a mother-to-be to understand how to rear her child. Other than having re-lived ones own childhood, I doubt there is a way.

    It's a depressing picture. Art: what do you suggest??


  3. The word “cure” became an anathema, a no-no. Another wonderful syllogism: we do a therapy that cures no one, therefore “cure” is never our goal. Wonderful.

    as my favorite Naturopathic physician (and Veterinarian and Nobel Prize nominee in Medicine) Joel Wallach always says, and says again in this lecture on human longevity:

    @ 6:05

    "There are 250 drugs, in the PDR, the Physicians' Desk Reference that they have access to, to treat people ... and if you take out the 500 antibiotics, that still leaves 245,500 drugs, not a single one is designed to cure anything.

    There is not a single drug in the PDR, except maybe antibiotics that might cure strep throat. Other than that there is not a single drug that cures anything. They are all designed to milk your insurance policies. They are all designed to milk Medicare and Medicaid. They are all designed to milk your wallet.

    There are no laws requiring pharmaceutical companies to manufacture drugs that cure, even though they could. But because there are not laws requiring them to do it, they don't."

  4. Paul, i like your idea of a primal club newsletter, with all voices being equal, and obviously it would need to be moderated and given some sense of direction by an editor.
    were you thinking of printed material, or an internet forum?
    i think there are some intelligent readers right here who would be happy to write say one article per month. the articles would have to be purposeful, and the best ones (voted by an elected panel) would be placed at the forefront, much like a newspaper.
    because of my desire to correct anyone who thinks differently to me, i think i would be a bad person to have on the panel, but i would like to write one very good article per month.
    if Art has the time, he could be on the panel and cast his vote, even if not contributing to the newsletter in any other way.
    Art, if you would rather leave it to others, i think it wouldn't hurt to ask around at the primal center, as Paul suggested. but ultimately, the 'club' could be formed without any involvement from students or staff at the primal center. if the main purpose of the newsletter is to provide a sort of 'even playing field' then it might actually be a good thing - to be disconnected as such.
    my only concern, if it were to be totally independent, would be the boring onset of repetitive, neurotic debate (caused by people like me). but if it were a monthly 'magazine' i guess the quality of the content could be pretty good.
    i'm not sure about printed material. it costs money, but it doesn't disappear when you turn your computer off. a printed newsletter would always appear to be more important than a casual internet forum.

  5. Dr. Janov, reading your latest blog entry above brings tears to my eyes, for I am reminded of when I discovered your work in the early 1970's when I was transitioning from my teens into my twenties. For the first time in my life I could feel as well as see, hear, taste, and smell. (At one point back then I did some short order cooking, and I remember one day after an evening of dropping into my pain smelling the cheeseburgers on the grill for the first time.) It is truly as if I wasn't born until after discovering your work. Thank you! - Jim

  6. dear dear art,

    what u had described would be the extreme or worse case, but low self esteem may rise even when growing up in a better environment and more love.
    if parents do not express love also by warm good comforting wards, some small true compliments that do repeat themselves through childhood in a way that they can become one true believe, that luck alone can appear as low self esteem.
    if parents are not complimenting but do criticize then even lower self esteem....when becoming an adult, nobodies compliments or nice wards will do because our head believes parents, usually our head thinks and talks to us same as one of our parents, or as a bad mixture of them both.
    one should be very balanced in order to have new thoughts and believes, those of his own........

  7. Jack: wait a few weeks for Life Before Birth. It explains a lot. art

  8. Anonymous: I keep saying that's the reason I work. You are most welcome. Art.

  9. Richard: not sure we have the resources or personnel. art

  10. Hi Richard (& Art),

    better keep me off the panel too because I suffer from verbal dioharea (how does one spell that word)?!

    Seriously though, my suggestion was in accordance with the idea that Primal needs an alternative outreach to a different and new audience. This is similar to devolution. . .

    If this idea is right it will be because the Primal Institute is ready for a new stage of development in it's operations.

    From what I understand about group dynamics power needs to devolve. This can be demonstrated by the idea that after facilitation, training (therapy) of any kind, the facilitator must become redundant.

    This is very important. . . The trainee, patient, employee, team (etc) must not remain dependent on the superior facilitator.

    It's a stage in training, as the trainee becomes more experienced they need the autonomy to act from their own initiative.

    Thus a newsletter could also be a voice for Primal trainee therapists; it depends on what the Clinic needs most. Does the Clinic need a membership sector and how could that serve patients? How could that serve the need to spread Primal amongst a new and wider 'community of interest'?

    As I said before electronic newsletter is inexpensive and could run on the same (or similar) mailing list as this blog. It could be down to members to print hard copies for limited, selected and targeted distribution. . .

    I would say that a quarterly newsletter is more sustainable, monthly takes a lot of work and may offer only a sketch of what's possible.
    3 monthly gives the editor time to really hone the edition.
    One thing I feel is important is that we have to accept that the Clinic is in Santa Monica and a membership would need to support and reflect the needs of the clinic in its' own region first. This is important, comes from the idea that charity begins at home. There's no getting away from the fact that everyone who wants Primal Therapy has to go to California.

    Thus a supportive edition might contain information about Primal support networks in the immediate vicinity of the clinic. . . I mean I live in Bristol UK, what's California like, who are Santa Monicans? Local newsletters offer a window into the adventure.

    Start small, regional and on basic needs first; then expand to incorporate more disparate elements later. That's my feeling at the moment.

    It all depends on the Clinics' needs and it's directors vision of the future.

    Paul G.

  11. reliving a traumatic memory is not the same as living the original trauma. the adult organism tries to 'remember' a childhood trauma. a full-grown man may tighten his adult vocal chords and muscles in the back of his mouth to produce the high pitched, duck-like sound of a crying baby. this is different to the original event; babies don't tighten those muscles when they cry out.
    a woman may keep her legs suspended in the air while she relives sexual abuse, using leg muscles that were not used when her legs were held by her abuser.
    i propose there must be some automatic decisions taking place. the patient automatically finds the sound or position that has the strongest resonance with the original trauma. the adult organism may automatically choose to sacrifice a more realistic feeling in the throat, in favour of a more realistic sound. in this example, the sound provides the strongest resonance, and for that reason, should not be interfered with.
    i wonder if a patient, deep in a feeling, can have an influence on the automatic decisions occurring in another patient.
    i imagine it must be very difficult for a patient to determine whether there was any adverse interference while he/she was deep in a feeling - particularly with regard to first line trauma which could be an ambiguous experience even if there was no interference.
    i know i am raising points that require lengthy discussion, and i'm not asking for that. i am happy for this letter to be quarantined because i don't want to have a bad influence on the readers.

  12. Off-Topic: Just came across this new book in my local library called " Origins: How the 9 months before birth shape the rest of our lives " by Annie Murphy Paul.Usually I would not mention a book I have not read, but since there are many of you (like me)interested in these matters,and I might not read it for a long time, I thought I would inform you all of the book anyways at this point.I will also e-mail the author to tell her of Dr Janov`s new book "Life Before Birth".


  13. Paul G: good idea but we do not have the personnel to do it. You guys carry on. art

  14. Paul G: You are enthusiastic in a positive context. I love that. You must believe in your ideas and keep going! You seem like a capeable guy who has ideas and perhaps has imagination of mean which need to get the goal. Keep going.
    Dear Art,

    Today I watched documentary about world war First. There was speeches of War veterans. They had more than 100 years, all of them (10-15 people)some even 115. The documentary was made in 2000. All of them were bright mind. They were all born in 19 century.
    So I can see you doing on your own in 2030, you will think :" We need more research and another one book-fine, it's ok, I will do it, but easier and with more pauses than 30 years ago."
    I wish you all the best, keep going!
    Cheers Art, see you in distant future

    Nenad, Serbia

  15. Marco: I know about the book, read part of it. It is a good beginning. Mine is much more advanced. art

  16. A facebook comment:
    "The heart of Proust’s novel appears to be a Primal Janovian experience: the narrator’s first moments on earth come back when he is 3 years old and provoke questions - can those be aswered?
    Yes, but not using any words... which are an obstacle, pain is the way... Now, if the child is not given the right response from the mother when the qustions arise, if its questions are rejected as childish, just because the adults know the facts of life like the conception etc., the immanence of the event is underestimated, the child simply „dies”, that is, its reactions are blocked.
    Some write Janov’s conclusions are reductionist – yes, but just as is the Big Bang, firstly a a tiny insignificant nothing, but look what happened."

  17. Dr Janov: Regarding the book "Origins", I sent an e-mail to the author via her agent, who acknowledges receipt and transmission of my e-mail that has a long description of the "Biology of Love" from your website. I could not find a longer description of "Life before Birth" to send her, so I thought the other book might give her the at least the general flavor of your work.

    And here is what Charles Konia, a Reichian therapist, had to say about Origins:

    Two Opposing Views Of Intrauterine Life

    Sponsored by the American College of Orgonomy, medical orgonomist Theodota Chasapi, M.D. gave a presentation on The Roots of Love and Hate, The impact of Early Mother-Baby Bonding on Our Ability to Love, at the Princeton Public Library on October 2, 2010. She presented recent findings that confirmed many of the discoveries regarding newborns and infants made in the 1940′s and 50′s by Wilhelm Reich, M.D.

    Applying Reich’s clinical findings on infants, Dr.Chasapi discussed the period of life from the intrauterine through the neonatal period. Characterized by intense emotional liveliness and responsiveness of the fetus to mother, she showed that this time was crucial in the future development of the human organism. For example, the various emotional states that are experienced in the mother’s daily life such as pleasure and anxiety were often reflected in the identical expressive movements (expansion and contraction) in the fetus. She reported that a healthy birth process is not simply the mechanical expulsion of the fetus from the mother’s womb but an active process in which both mother and fetus participate. She demonstrated that the newborn is not helpless as is commonly believed, but is able to crawl up the mother’s belly and find the nipple. Emphasizing the importance of maintaining emotional and physical contact between mother and newborn (orgonotic contact, Reich) during and following birth, she stressed the need to prevent disruption of this contact by well-meaning adults, such as removing the infant for tests.

    There is another view of intrauterine life which has recently appeared, one that on the surface seems identical but on closer examination is quite the contrary (see How the First Nine Months Shape the Rest of Your Life in Time Magazine , October 4, 2010). Called Fetal Origins, it is the application of mechanistic/mysical principles to the study of fetal life where only physical, quantitive factors such as nutrition, pollutants, drugs and infections are considered the significant influences on healthy fetal development. Since emotions are not correctly understood by mechanistic scientists, these factors are mentioned only as in passing. Although the mechanical causes are real, the unrecognized emotional disturbances of the mother are the major causes of intrauterine fetal damage. Focusing primarily on these physical factors serves as an evasion of the emotional development of the infant.

    October 6, 2010
    Categories: Biological Sciences, Child Rearing, Medical Sciences . . Author: Charles Konia, M.D. . Comments: Leave a Comment



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.