Tuesday, July 19, 2011

On Hypnosis (Part 9/20)

In a piece published a few years ago in the American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis,[1] Edwin describes an experience of his own which reflects the way unmet childhood need affects adult functioning and generates its own ongoing repression:

I came home from an exhausting day and asked my first wife to fix me a cup of coffee (or a drink).  She had had a bad day too, and retorted something like "fix it yourself."  I experienced an unbridled rage that was so out of proportion to the provocation, and so unlike me that I felt I had to analyze it.

He then used self-hypnosis to "home in on" a distant, repressed memory, a memory which "came in as clearly as if I were there."  On the 12th day of his life, the day he was taken off breast feeding, he "was in a similar childlike rage at being denied what I felt entitled to."  From this revisiting of his past, Edwin had an insight:  "The allegory of the woman in my life denying me liquid refreshment is obvious."  He later consulted medical records in order to confirm the memory; his mother had had to stop breastfeeding him due to a breast abscess.

         Edwin uses this case report as evidence of the accuracy of memories retrieved under hypnosis, even memories of events going all the way back to birth.  He adds that, through connecting his "out of proportion" rage in a current circumstance to a repressed childhood deprivation, he was able to change his behavior in similar situations.  Rather than flying off the handle, he might say, "Oh, you had a bad day too?  Let's talk about it."

         In subsequent chapters I will discuss whether hypnotherapy really can lift repression and eliminate neurosis.  Suffice it to say for now that clearly remembering a forgotten event in the distant past is not the same as truly reliving it; nor will remembering it cure decades of neurosis.  Neurosis is a way of life.  By virtue of dissociation from prepotent inner realities, all neurotics are to some degree in a trance.  This is why so many people seem to be "out of it," "not all there," or "spaced out."  The neurotic's brain seldom works optimally on matters at hand because so much of her mind is preoccupied.  She does not react or respond  spontaneously to what is around her, or else she does so in a manner "out of proportion to the provocation."   Neurosis divorces one from proper perception and narrows it to a more and more reduced field. Here is the confluence of hypnosis and neurosis.  The pre-hypnotic neurotic is already in a hypnotic state.  She doesn't have far to go.        
If the hypnotic trance is only a specialized demonstration of the neurotic state, then its depth corresponds to the degree of neurosis.  Rather than descending into a trance, as the word "depth" implies, hypnosis makes plain just how far down the levels of consciousness neurosis exists.

         The illusion is that the trance is "achieved" by hypnosis, when in fact it is only illustrated by it.  We will see this more clearly as we examine the nature of suggestion and suggestibility, on which hypnosis inevitably depends, and which utilize the neurotic split in consciousness rather than dialectically integrate it.   Here again, there is no dialectic process, as it must be whenever a symptom is take for THE problem instead of a manifestation of a problem.  There is of course here no mention of pain or motivation for the addiction of smoking.  It is simply a given to  be stamped out.  It is purely a mechanical approach.

         I explore hypnosis in some detail because it has a lot to do with our understanding of the nature of reality.    For if a hypnotist puts a cold coin on your hand and suggests that it is hot, and you then develop a blister, where is reality?  In your head, your hand, or in the mind of the hypnotist?   Is reality what we think?   Can you change reality by what we think?  Can we therefore think our way to health.  Is sickness all in our head? (as my friend says, “Where else would it be?”)

[1]Edwin, Many Memories Retrieved with Hypnosis are Accurate, American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 36:3, January 1994, pp. 174-176.


  1. AJ >> This is why so many people seem to be "out of it," "not all there," or "spaced out." The neurotic's brain seldom works optimally on matters at hand because so much of her mind is preoccupied. She does not react or respond spontaneously to what is around her, or else she does so in a manner "out of proportion to the provocation."

    Me >> The above is not considered proof by academics or skeptics. But on the other hand, I consider the above to be top notch evidence. I have found myself, a capable intellect at most times, often not quite all there in the moment. Sometimes in a trance like state, not thinking and running on auto pilot. I can drive a car in the wrong direction, once upon a time, and get nearly a half mile or so before realizing I should be going another way.

    My father is an even more interesting example. His reaction time is so slowed down now, that it often takes 4 or 5 seconds for him to react and acknowledge a question. It used to be 2 or 3 seconds and way back, it was immediate. He also has those sore spots where reactions are out of proportion. I so the same. How dare that @#$%ing thing fall on the floor. Let me smash it!

    We feel those things and see them in others. It is real, observable, and confirmable. Even Many psychologists are aware that symptoms are often not problems. They just don’t know what to do about it or realize what the real problem is, that causes the symptom. They do not want to know.

    AJ >> Can we therefore think our way to health?

    Me >> No and yes. From a primal perspective, “health” is tied to neurosis and reliving pain and eradicating it to enable better health. Yet, also, health can be remarkably improved through nutrients and a number of interesting electronic devices. I ought to know but prefer not to say. As well, thinking can help us to avoid serious mistakes that might further harm our health. But our thinking, isolated from any action, can not make us healthier. That if for Feeling to do through PT.

  2. Hi Art and all,

    -"He adds that, through connecting his "out of proportion" rage in a current circumstance to a repressed childhood deprivation, he was able to change his behavior in similar situations. Rather than flying off the handle, he might say, "Oh, you had a bad day too? Let's talk about it."

    The key word here is connect is it not?

    Also is this guy admitting his defence/projection and through an act of conscience, thus changing his behaviour? Now if people love each other and achieve this level of understanding (each others' defence/projections) then there is the possibility of the relationship bringing each partner closer to their true feelings. Then each person may truly be able to relate "in sickness and health".

    But how, what sort of connection? Art is saying that only a reliving (type of connection) brings about a permanent cure. Even then many small 'titrated' episodes for the same traumatic experience will probably be needed. All that is possible or safe, natural even, my organic system seems to be like that, self regulating.

    I digress; there are these other ways on can "connect" and we call them insight. Art says there are varying degrees of hypnotic trance and I would say there are also corresponding degrees or 'flavours' of insight with which one can 'modify ones' behaviour'.

    I think and feel this is really important because most of us have some sparks of insight which we would agree 'feels' a bit like a memory.

    I mean, when we get a grand aha it is like finding your lost keys or wallet or teddy or. . . . . . long lost friend. These are 'connects' but they seem not to be enduring or at least not as 'stand alone' insights.

    As I go through these high tides of emotion in small titrated doses (particularly during periods of time off work) I notice some sort of evolution in my insights but they're not only mental. It's hard to use words to explain; something is becoming permanent. This is a bit weird because I feel as if I am learning to swim through a layer of ab-reaction before I get to the real pain and rage.

    That sounds a bit crass but I know what I mean and the swimmer is not who I thought I am.

    I feel like I am gradually becoming aware "IN" my brain-stem. Not much yet, I'm not ready for that depth yet. I am still swimming around in limbic loss and berievement.

    Anyway, the point of all this is to say that there is a way insight & conscience for the people you love can allow a valid change in ones' behaviour which limits the worst excesses of ones' defence/projections.

    Of course if the other person no longer loves you, you may be on a one way crash course to a full breakdown whilst they keep flipping out at you from their CBT induced trance.

    Paul G.

  3. An email comment:"

    Just in case you haven't noticed this yet. Here are links to a new study that seems to give strong support to Primal theory. First one is a news story and the second one goes to an abstract in Translational Psychiatry journal:



  4. About hypnosis/intellectualism:

    Art referred to some people who are “primally dumb” when I was there during the 1980’s. As I understood it
    at the time, it meant to me that there is an “entry level” or “intellectual window” that is necessary for one to
    enter PT, for it to be a success. Perhaps a more acute awareness of one’s emotions, or a certain level of cognitive functioning without which there can be no progress. I actually knew one or two individuals who were primally dumb during my time at the Institute in the early 1980’s

    Perhaps new techniques at the Primal Centre have actually been able to address this situation. In my opinion,
    the hypnotic effect, and consequent shutdown of cognitive abilities was so over-powering for these people, that they forever failed to “snap’ anything at all. All they knew, was that there is a vague and obscure need to get
    well, but the penny never dropped for them. One women took eighteen months to finally make a connection, and her therapy proceeded successfully after that.

    I think that intellectual awareness is crucial for anyone who wishes to derive total benefits from PT.

    On a personal note: I went “into my head” and became an intellectual with an IQ that went through the roof.
    (I later actually became more “dumb” at high school and in my early twenties). However, all I had before I started PT was a smattering of intellectualism and an immense desire to get well. This desire to get well was an overriding factor in my life, and I decided that nothing else matters except going to the US for Primal therapy.

    My intellectualism could have been a hindrance to my therapy. However, I used it to my advantage. I became
    acutely aware of the realities of therapy, getting well, abreaction and all the other pro’s and cons about it all. I knew that I could use my intellect to my advantage in therapy or otherwise it would cripple me for the rest of my life. I knew that a balanced approach would be the sine qua non for me to get well. My motto became:
    “moderation in everything, even in moderation” I allowed myself to occasionally step outside of the idea of
    “balance”. I sank into my feelings. I pondered everything. I questioned. I thought and thought. I observed.
    I cried deeply and expressed immense and indescribable anger. I got well. I was so badly damaged that I
    cannot claim to be 100% cured. No-one can. We cannot be shoved back into the womb and be allowed to be
    born again to start it all over. Remnants of the damage we suffered will remain with us forever.

    Once in therapy, one has to take risks. That is crucial, especially in group. Speak up even if you feel like you want the earth to swallow you. It is not about intellectualism, neither about right or wrong, or fairness to
    others, it is about you and your feelings. Period. Do not even think about anything else. That is what got me
    through it all. Taking risks in group, speaking up when there is the slightest awareness of any kind of feeling,
    however “crazy’ it may seem. Your feelings are not always fair to others, but they are your feelings. So if someone else makes you feel uncomfortable for any reason, tell them exactly that. Tell them you love them, or that you hate them, whatever. You may find yourself connecting to an old feeling soon after.

    By doing all of that, you are negating the intellect or 3rd line inhibition. You are allowing yourself to become spontaneous, or as the expression goes: “Johnny on the spot”.

  5. May I ask what or why it happens that large masses of people renaunce the left rational part of the brain succumb to the pressure of extremist movements for example.
    Isn t it similar to hypnosis.
    Also. Arn*t than we all neurotics

  6. Anonymous: Obviously because the feeling brain is much more powerful, developed earlier in life and was a survival system at the beginning. art

  7. A facebook comment:
    "Humans are bahaving the only way they are conditioned to behave; like intelligent snakes with disfunctional frontal lobes -- Hey, dr.Art - no need to embed html. script in these Facebook notes - that only works for Websites ;) Regarding brainwaves in triune brains: Reptile/Snake/Salamander brain = Delta Brainwaves Limbic/old mammal's brain = Theta Brainwaves Primate/neocortex brain = Alpha/Beta brianwaves ;)"

  8. Patrick thank you,

    For everyone else reading this, this is for all of you too:

    When my Dad dropped me off at boarding school for the 'new' term (same old, same old, there were over 65 repetitions of this "Fare - Well" from 1969 to 1976), he said "don't cry, whatever you do, don't cry". . . there was always this one kid who couldn't keep it in, he was known as the cripple.

    Ever since I read the Primal Scream in 1984/5 I knew there was something terribly wrong. Some idiots in London later persuaded me Primal was part of all the other therapies anyway and I wasted the next 20 years in all the others.

    Of - coarse, all the time I was under the influence of this dictum: -" Don't cry whatever you do"!

    To make matters worse, both of my parents would regularly agree and pronounce: "If you cry, you cry alone, if you laugh, the world laughs with you". My folks are war-time children and only now that I have started crying do I understand just how compelling repression is.

    I fear for the spark in me because of this dictum "Don't cry"! I fear that I will clam up as soon as I get to Santa Monica, just as I did with all the other therapists and healers, some of whom even said: "Why are you not crying"?

    Oh the tyranny of care!

    Paul G.

  9. Paul,

    I may be wrong but as I read your first comment or so, I get the impression you are suggesting that feeling pain or bringing it up is easy. We all know that when we feel out of proportion feelings, that something is underneath it, causing it. We might build a strong cortex to hold it down but not get rid of it. The gating system operates for many reasons. If the environment is not safe, it will not let the original feelings up.

    Primaling is not easy or self-help or self-service. It usually takes intervention from a well trained professional and maybe even specific drugs or whatever. I sense you suggest we just feel it. Nancy Reagan said just say no. Both are tragically simplistic and unreasonable. It could leave so to wonder about how much you know or understand the real problems involved. But maybe I do misunderstand you. But treatment needs to be far more available or otherwise, Art’s well meaning evangelism is a bit pointless.

  10. Anonymous said...
    May I ask what or why it happens that large masses of people renaunce the left rational part of the brain succumb to the pressure of extremist movements for example.
    Isn t it similar to hypnosis.
    Also. Arn*t than we all neurotics
    Very intelligent and insightful questions, Anonymous. One answer to the 1st question is answered by one name, Jim Jones. Many more such examples exists throughout history yet still no one is listening or learning. Richard says “so what!” to logic and reason. So you see the problem. Extremist movements are coming. They have been planning for many years now. You will see it.

    Yes, if we reject evidence, logic, reason and the like, then we are tragically neurotic, dysfunctionally neurotic, even catastrophically so.

  11. Apollo: I leave you to figure out a way to make it more available; don't you think writing 15 books for the public is enough? Or writing articles for scientific journals? I leave it to you to write on the subject every day of the week for 45 years 6-8 hours a day. Ah youth. You want it all. Alas, it is not to be. AJ

  12. Apollo: I think my next book to be published will be Beyond Belief, which is ready to go and has a long chapter on Jones. Art Janov

  13. Hi Apollo,

    Most of what I am going through is leaky gates and abreaction. Some of it is the real process, that I am absolutely certain. I'm one of those idiots who finds himself outside the castle walls trying to get in so that I can finish off what has already begun. I had a very good therapist but he is not set up to take me where Primal needs to go, that I am also certain of.

    Do you want to get into the castle too? Maybe we can help each other.

    Paul G.

  14. Hi, Apollo,

    My ex therapist is an 'Integrative Body Work Therapist'(attached to the Jung school).

    Limited by the 50 minute hour.

    In past entries from about 2009 there is a reply to a post from such a therapist who did Primal at the clinic back in the early 80s.

    If I had to recommend some psychotherapeutic help other than Primal (ie:outside of USA) I would go to one of those, but, they are not set up to handle regression right back to the womb and frankly I just do not see how the 50 minute hour can work for those of us collapsing into total and complete grief and rage as reliving toddlers/infants.

    Art has pointed this out many times ad nauseum. This is obviously why the 3 week intensive (in a motel & preferably without 'suppliments') with follow ups and buddying is so important.

    It is almost 'Beyond Belief' that anyone could seriously get much (apart from ab-reaction) from the 50 minute hour. The mind boggles.

    Apollo, if you have some cash and can organise the time and you live in USA just go to the clinic in Santa Monica. Send me a postcard.

    Paul G.


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.