Sunday, August 7, 2011

In the Airtight Grasp of the Intellectuals

We are in the grasp of the cognitive/insighters who think neurosis and pain is all in our head, because they are in their heads, those unassailable, sacrosanct souls who have lost touch with their depths of feeling and have raised intellectuality to the level of an ineluctable principle. They believe that all we have to do is change our head, our ideas and attitudes, and everything will be dandy. The insighters are no less at fault. I know. I was one of them for seventeen years. They too apotheosize the present, the here-and-now; beliefs become the linchpin of their approach. They move away from the one thing that is curative — the patient’s history. We are historic beings, after all, imprinted neuro-physiologically with our past. Any proper treatment must address that history. And that key history is not on top of the brain; it is deeper. They are talking to the wrong brain! And they expect the right answer when that brain has no answers; the answers lie below the usual canards. They are joined to origins, the generating sources; it is the only place we can find answers to profound questions: What is wrong with me? How can I get well?

The high-ranking brain prevents any hope of a cure for emotional illness. Talking to the brain that talks was fine a century ago and is good when dealing with current problems, but now we know so much more about the brain and what it contains; and we know that the damage done to us is imprinted on lower levels of consciousness — far below where words live. We need to learn a new language — that of the unconscious — a language that has no words, just feelings and sensations; in order to communicate with that brain we need to understand emotional tone, body language and non-linguistic feelings - the physiological base of it all. I submit that psychotherapy has been in the grasp of intellectuals who went to school to learn about feelings, and that learning prevented any understanding of those feelings. All they had to do is take a trip to the other side of the brain—the right - and they would learn all they need to know about feelings and how to treat emotional illness. They need to learn how to improvise and get away from traditional learning. Improvise is how we get the right brain to light up. It has to do with independent thinking, not rote, not pure memory, not taking precise notes at lectures—just reflecting in a good way. The problems is you usually cannot get an advanced degree in that way, a degree that will allow you to get a license and practice. So we have the “feelers’ those free souls who practice with no degree, and who also have no scientific sense that will allow them to go slow, be methodical, under stand science and the scientific method, and not get too far ahead of facts; to stop short of booga booga. The usual shrink such as the Psychoanalyst, needs to undergo psychotherapy herself. And again, the problems is that they inevitably never cross the neural bridge to nirvana. Never develop profound understanding because that kind of understanding only comes with a plunge into the depths, the antipodes of the unconscious. So the professionals go to college, get a degree that allows the person to “heal” others; and with that diploma he is offered a pair of testicles and the lower brain attached, which says, “go and do to others as you never want done to you.”

To this day, and it is worse now, because we always believed that words could help us make profound change in our patients; after all, we call it “mental illness.” And Freud started this mess with his verbal free association, a so-called royal road to the unconscious. And, in fact, words often are the defense against delving into the unconscious. Our goal should be to produce feeling human beings, not mental giants because feeling is the essence of life; there is no life without it; not joy, no ecstasy no depths of sadness, no nothing; just a big emptiness.


  1. Yann from the last blog: I say "thinking" is perverted is in the sense that all other creatures that have right and left brain hemispheres, we are the only creature that has developed an ability to 'think', other than to use that left hemisphere to express feelings. I conjectured (but my conjecturing could be way off) that we were once like other creatures and just used it to express feelings, but due to circumstances that were perhaps a survival mechanism (due to what-ever), we developed to the point we are now, whereby we seem to need to figure out the nature of the known universe and come up with notions so convoluted you REALLY DO need a PhD in applied mathematics. Most of us are way below that facility. My stating that thinking is "perverse" is to suggest that we are now using this hemisphere to do something it was never originally meant to be. Of course, I came to this notion in evolutionary terms. However, it is merely a conjecture on my part.

    For me, using the word 'perverse' is meant to give pause to 'thinking' as some superior super noble act. With humans dominating the planet and creating civilization, economics, and law making, I contend, we'll destroy nature, the planet and perhaps the rest of all living creatures. Do we have that "right" (whatever we mean by 'right') to be so dominant??????

    I merely wish we could become more feeling-full and less neurotic.


  2. Dr. Janov,
    I laughed out loud reading this sentence:
    “I submit that psychotherapy has been in the grasp of intellectuals who went to school to learn about feelings, and that learning prevented any understanding of those feelings”.

    Just yesterday, a friend told me that she finished 40 hours CT.
    Then she said: I could have saved all this money if I would have told my butcher's wife what I told the therapist.
    The butcher's wife, straight forward, honest and with lots of good feelings told her: B, you think too much, you need to let go and cry from the bottom of your soul.

    With this in mind, I went home, my friend said, and the tears begun to flow uncontrollably.

  3. A bad feeling is not a demon. It is a caged angel. You need to release it properly so that it can guide you to good health.


    Bad therapy puts more angels in the cage.

  4. Art, you forgot another reason why we appear to be in the grasp of the cognitive bunch. PT is rare, and requires money, and a long term commitment to healing and there is no guarantee of success since the patient may not be sincere in the 1st place and be their own worst enemy. So some take cognitive therapy as a last or only resort. Personally, I could not stand CT. I’d rather go it on my own that that.

    I see you do not like my theory that pain controls the intellect. You still seem to insist that the intellect can take over all by itself. Yet you do avoid showing why you say Pain rules and then does not rule. This is clearly a contradiction you do not want to resolve. That much is clear.

    I agree that P therapy needs to feel, not think. That is only within therapy. On the outside, we still need the cortex. Of course, learning to feel takes place both inside and out, that new language you refer to. But many here simply reject all logic and reason. You do not disagree with them or correct them. So they become more convinced by the day.

    Art >> Never develop profound understanding because that kind of understanding only comes with a plunge into the depths, the antipodes of the unconscious.

    I wonder how far off those depths are. You say we can not develop profound insights without the depths. I say that profound insight is possible whether its primalling out all pain or another way to sort of probe. But whatever, I am not convinced of your dogmatic assertion. It would only take one anomaly to prove you wrong but how do you prove an anomaly when the boss says it can not exist. Its lie the government denying patents that violate the laws of physics, their official physics, of course. Rigging the game is not science, though.

    Art >> Our goal should be to produce feeling human beings, not mental giants.

    Can you have one without the other? If the world collapses and implodes, what good will PT be to anyone? If pain is a sort of entropy, can we really crawl out of the hole we are in? Unbridled optimism is nice, but not certain to be the outcome wished for. Pain could overwhelm us as a species and take us all out. Tat is a real possibility but many PT fans will dare not go down that road.

  5. Life is no further away than we are experiencing at the moment ... but our thoughts are.


  6. We live in two rooms of ourselves… one of pain and the other how to avoid it.


  7. Great update Art, A good repeat of the basic concepts, realities, that Primal Therapy is based upon. Realities every baby knows, but developing children are forced to ignore. Sincerely, ...Oscar

  8. An email comment:
    "THIS is one of your PRIZE letters...THANK you!!! It's wisdom like this that feeds my soul, giving me courage to carry on and face my own challenges...challenges of my right brain within the safety of my own home. Once again...thanks!"

  9. Sieglinde your friend is a pressure cooker. she loosened up just enough to release a tiny jet of steam. then her lid tightened again. if she could keep releasing steam for a thousand years it would make no difference. there is a gas burner hidden underneath and it has been silently raging for all of her life.

    a jet of steam is not a sign of healing. she needs help to access the fire; the CAUSE of the feeling. until she can feel the fire there will be no healing.

    'wannabes' (that's a compliment) have a romantic perception of feelings. they like to think that all feelings have a curative quality. they are happy to see ANY expression of feeling, whether it be small or big. chances are, if it is small it is abreaction, and if it is big it is psychosis. neither are curative.

  10. Richard,

    You are so right – and I know too.

    Her pressure cooker exploded twice in the past 6 years and she was admitted in to psychiatric care.

    It has not helped, telling her about PT. I led her to Dr. Janov's website and I gave her my Janov books. She returned them a few days ago without reading.
    She went to a CT therapist, because her insurance paid for it.

    Her other help, as she told me, is reading the Bible and eating kosher food.

    What else can I say, what else can I do, if person seek repression over insight. Nothing really...


  11. The bible and kosher food. Am I missing something? AJ

  12. Dr. Janov,

    I asked the same question.

    Her explanation was that God will guide her on the right path toward healing and kosher food keeps her body healthy.

    If this is supposed to help you, I asked, why have you seen a therapist?

    She answered: Because every psychiatrist believes, and I need to talk about my problems.

    I asked again: How long will it take for God to heal you? She said: in His good time – we need to suffer first for our sins.

    This is the time to back off; otherwise the whole bible is pulled over you and no amount of science will convince her.

  13. "In the Airtight Grasp of the Intellectuals"

    Dr. Janov, forget the intellectuals. Observing some very effective Dr.'s from health fields in getting their message out, it looks like change from the top down is futile.

    There was a beautiful description on who the focus is effective in a previous article:

    "It has to hit you in the gut. And who does it hit there? Those who suffer. Those who are close to feelings. Those who cannot make it, who are constantly depressed and anxious. They understand my theory right away and come from 26 countries for the therapy."

  14. Addressing Kaz Post

    Yes, this backs up what I say. People who are desperate and have not fared well to that point. These are good candidates for therapy and healing. they are not good candidates for intellectual analyzing or reasoning. the left cortex needs a calm serene state in order to function adequately. the calm is often achieved by blocking pain or compartmentalizing. Those whose gates are weak can not do this.

    So they need to be fully integrated (if possible) before they can spare the intellect the serenity it requires go reason objectively and sort things out in the outside world as well as within.

    So I guess I am going to have to resort to some elitism. I hate to but am forced to. only certain minds (all 3 levels) have the tools and ability to think at certain levels. but . . . common sense should be within grasp of nearly anyone. when something is suggest, it usually comes down to just a few key points that we can all decide on, hopefully.


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.