Wednesday, June 1, 2011

We Finally See Someone

We finally see the colors of people like Assad of Syria, someone who was praised by our leaders until his people marched for freedom and democracy. Then he shot them down. I bring this up because I do not believe you can know anyone until you see them in all sorts of conditions. And that is why I think that therapists can never know their patients until they see them in extremis; in a variety of deeply emotional situations, where we see how they react. If we never see our patients except in intellectual discourse we can never know them. They can don their mask and make us believe the opposite of who they are; vis a vis Assad. Put him under stress and he becomes an assassin......alleged

We treated a killer some years back. We discussed the case for hours before we took him. When we got down to feeling he was only a hurt little boy, someone who lashed out. He wasn’t a professional killer; he killed someone in a bar fight. We discovered that he never wanted to be a tough guy but had to be given the violent family he grew up in.


  1. Alice Miller would have agreed. She believed there are no innately evil people, just humans pushed beyond their ability to cope...usually by parents who were themselves not raised well.

    Few ask WHY people do what they do. When the "doer" is male, it's just assumed that machismo or testosterone or some other factor caused the aggressor to do what he did. Any honest explanation is seen as excuse-making.

    We never ask why females do what THEY do, much less note they are equally harmful (albeit often in more veiled ways: poison is as deadly as bullets!).

    Witness the demonization of men by feminists. They posit that men are "innately evil," never asking WHY men do what they do. Certainly there is little talk about mothers mistreating children and how those kids turn out as adults.

    I'm not saying women are innately evil, either, just noting that the idea that females might "create" the "male monsters" they demonize is never discussed. Like domestic violence, it's deemed a male "thing"...despite research showing women are equally violent when it comes to verbally and physically starting fights.

    It's easier to blame males than look honestly at the MUTUAL dynamics involved in "creating the world."

    Now, on another topic: Art, I was listening to a pubic radio program:

    I kept thinking how Primal Therapies would explain the "phenomena" the author cited. His "warring" parts of the brain mirrored your tri-line theory. Yet he didn't use your terms. I kept thinking "leaking gates" and other things you've mentioned as he spoke.

    The author didn't mention the centrality of "feelings" like you do. It convinced me, yet again, that you remain in the forefront...and on-target.

    Might you do a blog entry on the show?

  2. Hi,

    fortunately I'm not a murderer but I did become suspicious about how much I wasn't telling my therapist. I also became suspicious of the power my therapist had to distort both his and my truth due to the confinement of our relationship being strictly in the therapy room.
    How could he really know me or test my testimony?

    It's true, to know some-one, warts and all we have to live with them at home, work with them and co-relate within the same group of friends.

    This is the main reason some people commit to living in enclosed communities, that way we get to be seen, warts and all.

    Only then can one say one really knows some-one.
    The one exception being the Primal Clinic presumably, perhaps also a few lucky people who may have found rare therapists who know. . .

    This is anaethma in our modern society. For good reasons we have separated off and filed away these different aspects of our lives. Very much a modern phenomena of needing "Clear Boundaries". The hazard is becoming disconnected and isolated.

    Paul G.

    But this also produces a breeding ground for personality disorders. Keeping all offenders in prison is one example of how unsustainable boxing and filing off "problems" really is.

  3. Dr Janov,

    I agree with your statement that's why it takes years to know a friend, a partner or whatever.
    I remenber the time when Saddam Hussein was welcome as a good friend in France (back in the 80's). I was a kid but somewhat disturbed when he was wearing his uniform: I was wondering if someone wearing a war suit could possibly be "a friend"?

  4. I assume that when therapy is practised correctly, the patient will not interpret the therapist as the cause of the feeling, and therefore should not be a threat to the therapist. I hope none of the therapists are ever in any serious danger.

  5. Yes, we finally see someone! This text helped me a lot to understand the difficult situation that is currently going through. Outer mask a person is not the same as the figure that came from the inside when a person is under stress. This is the real answer to why someone behaves as Dr Jeckil and Mr Hyde. It is a source of great disappointment and pain.
    S.N Serbia

  6. Because there are so many people with inscrutable masks everywhere, I always feel somewhat uneasy around other adults in our society.This all leads to widespread loneliness, confusion, and mistrust.

    And it is so true that only under stressful situations sometimes can we see the truth of a person. How unfortunate this is. It should be the opposite: that we should be able to be relaxed and open with one another under normal conditions.

  7. Hi Art, "untill they see them in extremis"
    my deceased friend always talked as the nice
    guy to his doctor , and lied to him ,after he
    he had drove his car into another one
    wondering " whwter I am God" clearly a psychotic episode ! But just one minute later he told me not to betray him!
    But who is to throw the first stone 1 Yours emanuel

  8. i've been wanting to say this for a long time...i know what i am trying to say but it's hard to find the right words:
    primal theory is beautiful because it doesn't focus on the focuses on the humanity. it shows us that we are all real, important and lovable people underneath all of the craziness.

  9. Assuming Assad has shown his true face while put under stress, what about those who are responsible for putting him under pressure? It's too easy to watch the events through the mainstream media lens. I mean, shouldn't we also consider Hillary Clinton and those Pentagon warmongers as neglected children thus adults with narcissistic/megalomaniac disorder who won't stop until the world and everyone (neurotic or not) becomes their property and slave. Let's face it. Saddam was one of those, but so was George Bush Sr. (and so was his son too) who sold him the weapons required to exterminate his own kurdistani population…and most probably is Barack Obama too and his fellow wall street mafiosi, who desperately need us all to believe their saving the libian/yemeni/ people from . Is Assad showing his assassin face? Yes. Should the US role as policemen/kindergarden keeper of the wold since 1946 be questioned and stopped? Yes. I fully believe republican candidate Ron Paul's perspective should be considered in its entirety. Everybody could become an assassin when his ideas/beliefs are shown to the world as wrong. Everybody has the right to grow at their own speed.

  10. Richard: Excluding psychopaths. We should feel sorry for them, but they don't have an "underneath".

  11. I would like to show the connections between several posts from A.Janov. We have unmmeet needs from our childhood that are not allowing us to see people as they really are: in everyday life situations when we meet someone for the first time: we see our needs. I guess that it's the same neurotic process with our political leaders: they are elected because they seem to be able to fullfilled our needs.Those people craving for political power have their own unmeet needs (with specific needs like "power" or "being in control"). I don't agree with Lars's comment, not "everybody could become an assassin when his ideas/beliefs are shown to the world as wrong". it would be the case for people struggling for power, wanting to control but everyone is not a political leader ( alot of people just don't care about power). Power corrupt people with strong neurotic needs, people who decided since childhood to struggle to become "powerfull". You don't choose to follow a political carrier just by accident.

  12. Lars, I really think it is a stretch to put Hillary Clinton and Obama, even George Bush Jr, in the same league as Assad. Small delusions like that give the Left an undeserved bad name.

  13. Andrew,

    If we could lock up a psychopath for what he did… he would probably kill himself before the feeling of what led him to become a psychopat... but if not then I think even a psychopath with supervision during his isolation would come to life?


  14. i knew a fisherman who slipped on his boat and hit the side of his head. despite the accident, he was very intelligent, well-spoken, and seemed like a regular guy. but when he was in the supermarket, he would walk down the isle, and suddenly he would crash into something, making a huge mess. he did this so many times, eventually he stopped going out, and then a short while later he killed himself.
    most people thought he was normal. they didn't know about the brain damage or the supermarket accidents. he told me about his life and the brain damage shortly before he killed himself.
    obviously the brain is very complicated. brain damage doesn't necessarily turn you into a drooling simpleton.
    are psychopaths severely brain damaged? new evidence suggests they are. many of them are "high achievers"

  15. Lars, you hit the nail on the head. Some ca't take too much truth. Kind of like going from total darkness into the bright light of a freshly fallen snow with the sun out. No one in politics is innocent or superior morally. Great post!


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.