Tuesday, September 6, 2011

On Hypnosis (Part 23/26)

 Hypnotherapy: Painwashing, Brainwashing?

The therapist-client relationship is generally not, perhaps never is, one of equals...The client is in a position of revealing his problems, inadequacies, and fears to a person who seems to be going through life successfully and carefree...The relationship is characterized by the therapist being the expert, the authority, and a client's uncertainty or inability to detect personal choices can easily induce obedience to authority...The need for acceptance and the need to belong are also factors present in the hypnotic relationship. 
Avoiding confrontations with the authority, doing things to please her (ranging from generating therapeutic results to knitting her a sweater), conforming to her language style, values, and theoretical ideas are all ways this need can be discovered...
In order to be truly influential, discovering where (not whether) a person is open to suggestion (and everybody is at some level) is the task of the clinician.
Yapko, Trancework[1]

Long-range effectiveness in hypnotherapy depends upon the success of posthypnotic suggestion. Suggestions implanted in the mind of the patient during the session must continue to exert an influence long after the session has ended. The suggestion that an obese woman will eat less during the next week as she learns to dislike fattening foods must stick in her mind if it is to work. In order for suggestions to accomplish this they must somehow alter the patient's ideas and attitudes about the problem being treated. Recall that Erickson repeatedly described hypnosis as a process of presenting new ideas. Indeed, the phenomenon of suggestion makes it possible to replace a negative state of mind with a more beneficial one suggested by the therapist. What must be understood, however, is that a new state of mind is at once the achievement and the limitation of suggestion. For it is at best ephemeral -- never able to eradicate years of childhood experiences that summated into a feeling of worthlessness, for example. Only the belief in magic could imagine otherwise.
If one understands that early traumatic experience is imprinted, impressed into the neurophysiologic system permanently then one quickly sees that a suggestion in the present, no matter how powerful, is at best palliative; the business of repressing Pain and distorting reality goes on as usual throughout the body. In short, suggestion is never a match for an imprint.
Let's review what characterizes the hypnotic trance experience. As described in the previous chapter, someone who is in a trance:
  • waits passively for information as to how to behave
(suspension of the "planning function");
  • pays attention only to the hypnotist and follows hypnotist's directions ("selective attention" and "redistribution of attention");
  • accepts distortions as reality (reduction of "reality testing");
  • is highly susceptible to the hypnotist's suggestions (heightened "suggestibility");
  • will readily adopt a role of being someone else ("role enactment"), and
  • may forget and recall the hypnotic experience ("post-hypnotic amnesia")
In other words, the hypnosis subject, guided by the hypnotist's cues, tunes out some external and internal stimuli while tuning in on others. While in a trance, his experience is narrow, with a separation ("dissociation") existing between his conscious and unconscious minds. In such a condition he is highly susceptible to the hypnotist's suggestions, such as new ideas ostensibly designed to change his state of mind: to dissociate from pain, replace depressive thoughts with positive ideation, see one's body in more attractive light, learn better self-esteem, and so on.

The attraction of suggestion therapy is that it offers an apparently speedy and effective means of bringing about change without having to deal with the troublesome contents of the unconscious in their own terms. But precisely because this approach keeps aloof from the generating experiences behind the problematic mental states, suggestion therapy can never be resolving. It can only paper over the cracks, rearrange defenses and symptoms, further dissociation and disconnection and, in effect, streamline the neurosis. 

Because neurosis is the post-hypnotic state in which we carry out the "suggestions" of childhood, we may see hypnotherapy as offering counter-suggestions. This might be well and good were not the original suggestions of neurosis bound to physiological imprints laid down in the course of development. Suggestion therapy is really only the offer of a better looking and more hopeful defense. How different is all this from a psychoanalyst who "suggests" that his patient is suffering from this or that, and perhaps she ought to leave her husband, go back to school, try harder to be nice? Are these not suggestions? That is why the best therapy involves no suggestions whatsoever.

Once the patient is the center of all therapeutic power, suggestions are superfluous. It is then she who suggests to the therapist what is the possible motivation behind certain behavior; it is the patient who thinks perhaps she ought to try this or that. Her feelings will dictate, not the words, however reassuring and mellifluous, of a therapist. Power to the patient! 

Within the experience of each Pain is a unique and complex spectrum of responses -- responses which, as I have said, are mediated by ongoing neurophysiological processes. An early trauma may diminish the effectiveness of part of the immune system, such as the natural killer cells. The trauma may change the thyroid output (our hypothyroids often are able to normalize with reliving of Pain). The entire body and brain is thus involved in each Pain response, and it is the entire body and brain which must be involved in each undoing. Otherwise we are fighting against the Primal tide, and that tide is not easily overcome.
Look at it another way. Suppose someone steals and is caught. He is beaten every day for a year.
 Chances are this will encourage him not to steal. But the tendencies are not beaten away. You can't beat a childhood away, nor can you encourage it away, any more than you can encourage the physiology to change permanently. To think otherwise is again to believe in magic. Never forget the "why" in therapy. If you do forget it, then the therapy is bound to fail. Why does she do this? Why does she have migraines? Why does he steal? Can suggestion erase twenty years of ghetto life? Not likely.

Hypnotherapy: Reality or Delusion?

Most hypnotherapists today contend that hypnosis does not involve control and manipulation, as was originally believed. They contend that the patient is not merely a passive recipient; he is instead an active participant, accepting suggestions that suit him and rejecting those that do not. To me this oversimplifies and makes the situation a matter of semantic. It ignores two important factors: the vulnerability inherent in being a patient, and the passivity inherent in the act of receiving suggestions.

Being vulnerable means "capable of being wounded; assailable; open to attack or damage." A patient is vulnerable because he is in the hands of someone else. Vulnerability detracts from one's judgment and common sense, which is why accepting or rejecting suggestions as a patient is no simple matter. If a patient were so clearly able to determine what did or did not suit him, he wouldn't be a patient in the first place. He would be a healthy, feeling person. How can a patient even know what kind of suggestions will help her problems if she doesn't really know what her problems are? Disconnection characterizes neurosis.

Vulnerability is precisely what makes hypnotherapy so appealing. A beneficial reality can be superimposed over Pain and problems by a kindly father figure. Beneficial suggestions are seen as the perfect antidote to the vulnerability of tension and anxiety. But how truly beneficial are these suggestions? How beneficial is it to be told you are feeling comfortable and relaxed when you are really feeling otherwise? Doesn't this also replay the parent-child paradigm where the child is admonished into smiling when she doesn't want to, into acting happy when he really feels sad.

Hypnotic suggestions for comfort, relaxation, stress-reduction, and the like really require the same compromise the neurotic has made all his life. This is what can and does happen not only in hypnotic past-life regression; vulnerable to the hypnotist's suggestions and expectations, the patient produces a fantasy disguised as a traumatic memory, and believes that re-experiencing it makes the current symptoms that it supposedly generate disappear. Such is also the case in hypnotic age regression in which the patient does not fully relive and integrate the early trauma but instead shoves it back down.
To say that the patient has control over the hypnotic situation, as modern hypnotherapists contend, is a double contradiction in terms. First of all, the neurotic is never in control; that is part of the problem. The neurotic's history controls him; it is the unconscious reference point around which his life revolves. Perhaps he overeats, for example, and why? Because he has no control over the arcane forces at work. The neurotic who has reached the point of seeking therapy does so because he has at least a dim realization that his Pain is controlling him. 

We can have no control over our Pain as long as it remains unconscious; and that is the most that hypnotherapy can do -- make us unconscious. This brings us to the second part of the contradiction: the patient cannot be in control of something of which he is unconscious. As long as Pain remains unconscious, as it must in the hypnotic situation, it wields the force. To say that the neurotic has control in the hypnotic situation is to contradict the meaning of both hypnosis and neurosis.
I believe that passivity is inherent in the hypnotic relationship. No matter how much the patient supposedly "participates," it is still in response to the hypnotherapist. The hypnotherapist is really the active agent, the one who defines the situation, however broadly. 

Erickson believes that hypnosis is an active process for the patient because hypnotherapists base their suggestions on the patient's "repertory of life experiences and learnings." Carefully worded suggestions, "utilizing the patient's own frame of reference," can then stimulate the patient to reassociate and reorganize his associative processes." But basing suggestions on the patient's life experience does not make them any more valid therapeutically. For one thing, fitting suggestions to the patient is not a clear matter of incorporating life experiences. The hypnotherapist can only incorporate the patient's life experiences as he (the hypnotherapist) understands them; as he relates to them. The suggestions can never be a pure product of the patient's past but only a subjective interpretation and rephrasing of that past by the hypnotherapist. Compounding this problem is the interesting fact that neurotic patients do not really know their past in the first place because it is so repressed. Until they relive it their reports of past experiences can only be fractionally accurate.

[1]_pp. 91-102.


  1. Hi,

    In the third line anything can mean anything.

    Paul G.

  2. Art: I think I have read enough about hypnotism and hypnotherapy to last me a lifetime and I'm sick of it. I know I was at my most suggestible (hypnotized) in my early childhood when it was suggested what was righteous and what was wrongteous and what was moral and what was immoral, what was disgusting to them, and what they wanted me to be.

    Fortunately after 30 years of Primal Therapy I have gotten back (to a major extent) the real me (the good, the bad and the downright ugly) and can live with all three. I thank you for that Art.

    I've abandoned all notions of ethics and morality seeing them as constructs of religion. I want none of it. I am content (for want of a better word) with myself and know I will be feeling and expressing those feelings, for the rest of my life, when, as far as I'm concerned, I will cease to feel anymore.


  3. "In the third line anything can mean anything."

    apollo, the third line can believe anything and the other lines are innately meaningless. repressed terror is meaningless because it is unresolved. like a shark, the unconcluded signal is free to roam wherever similar signals are resonating. old meaningless terror is able to blend unconsciously with each new experience.....creating subtle new beliefs without any real meaning. a neurotic might believe

    "Janov is hiding something"

    neurotics can't get the real meaning of ANYTHING until they have non-neurotic communication between all lines.

    apollo, before you disagree, i think you should consider this one fundamental point:

    neurotics have no DESIRE to challenge all of the thoughts that SEEM to make sense.

    apollo, you don't need to have blind faith. you just need to wake up out of your intellect.

  4. This below cannot be told in off of times.

    No one with “need” to be a professor... will or can never discover the sentence about science when the need to be a “professor” satisfies the child in them. As more science there is proven as more will the professor hold against it… against it because of what science will provoke. Against it… as long as not being proven to be wrong… that is what a legal process will do… prove what all those professors do wrong … if done right in the legal process.
    This is what Dr. Arthur Janov has to fight… fight because he cannot let poor “humans” treat children to become poor “humans”. I am convinced… we will need a legal process to address this human problem. Nothing else… what so ever will make a revolution possible?
    The silent meaning… in all office there is of psychology … with wrights to their own “professional” opinion… will be until the day they are proven wrong.


  5. Hi Frank,

    You are very persuasive writer and you have nearly convinced me to get handy with the "statement writing".

    From my own experience one has to write statements for a legal process and unfortunately these 'statements' can and will be used in evidence against you.

    Legal processes happen in the 3rd line. In this 'line of reasoning' only one third of the conscious truth makes sense. Thus the meaning and value of Primal Theory could easily become lost in the 'sepia toned' and two dimensional.

    Possibly only one dimensional where criminals are forgiven and victims taxed.

    With all my passion I would love to fight the true fight. With all my passion I would love to tell the intellectuals "How it is" but every time I have attempted this 'involved' process the 3rd line intellectuals throw the baby out and discuss only the bath water. For them the bath water is more important and best disposed of asap.

    After that, who knows where the baby went.

    Paul G.

  6. frank i like what you are saying but i don't know how it can work.

    the primal center has done studies but the reviewers haven't understood the results.

    they prefer cognitive therapy evidence because it is simple. cognitive therapy evidence does not have to account for the complex dynamics seen in a patient who is gaining access to deeper brain levels and changing physiologically.

    cognitive therapy evidence consists of basic testimonials taken from neurotic patients. according to dr. janov, those testimonials are not reliable evidence.

    so how do we get reviewers to understand primal therapy evidence? we can't force them to understand it. the law has it's limits. do you know any cheap lawyers who are willing to help?

  7. Paul "In the third line anything can mean anything".

    The brain does not think what it wants… it thinks exactly what was necessary for survival ...survival at the time with life-threatening experiences. The tone Paul!
    That the brain now seeking targets to keep the defense alive ... that we got stuck there… there back then… was a consequence for survival and now has become a primal therapeutic problems ... problems because the primal therapeutic revolution until now have failed ... failed do to all those professors with goal of cognitive methods and psychiatric medication with ECT as a diabolical end to what they are able… that is a tragedy.


  8. Hi,

    When I tried to use the legal system to address certain 'issues' which you could loosely describe as emotive (involving residency of children) I was advised to keep feelings out of it and rely on the objectivity of my solicitor.

    You see, that bit (3rd line) can be measured and compared with other (3rd line) realities and so the judges can more easily play parent and punish everyone! That's how most 'parents' handle sibling rivalry. . . -"Behave yourself, or I'll bang your heads together". . .

    Paul G.

  9. Years ago i allowed myself to be hypnotized by a roommate in college, and what i remember is, once under, feeling incredibly relaxed, as if all the stored up tension in my body had left me; but that's all; there was no insight or connection or resolution, which a deep feeling experience brings.

  10. Hi Frank,

    People do and so do I sometimes think thoughts that are (only later do I realise) 'confabulations'. These constructs are the mirrors behind which we hide our pain. The bloody intellectuals are the ones who take science too far and make technology out of it.

    By this I mean a 'technicalised' extension of a sound logical assumption and/or observation.

    With 'resonance' from the 1st line comes the atom bomb on 3rd. . . .

    This I feel is what Jack meant when he said "Whatever good did thinking do? It even invented the atom bomb". Or words to that effect.

    Furthermore technology replicates 1st line forms in many other ways. . . Without knowing it we are 'reconstructing the micro-cosmic macrocosmically' (and vice verca I'm sure).

    There is a series of really good films called:
    Koyaanisqatsi, Powaqqatsi & Naqoyqatsi by Francis Ford Coppella which illustrates this theme. Essential viewing.

    The whole structure of the Legal system is in a strange way uncannily 'constructed' rather like the neurotic brain in so far as you have your "Defence" and you have your "Prosecution" departments. These two dinosaurs roam the mind as-well as the court room and the truth gets totally trampled underfoot.

    Very occasionally a bloody good theory or idea gets 'tested' in special courts that examine the actual processes in order to prove the validity of an idea. If Primal were to be "LEGITIMISED" then it could be tested in these special courts but I expect one could spend decades "building a case for it"!

    Paul G.

  11. Paul: What I inferred was that the ultimate in our thinking was the creation of the atom bomb. What this should mean for humankind is that we succeeded in finding a means to obliterate ourselves; F***in Great. We need to do a lot more more feeling and expressing those feeling and cut out most of this whole thinking BS about practically everything.
    Be sad and cry or sob, be angry and beat the pillow or mattress, be afraid and scream or whatever. FEEL the life for f***'s sake.


  12. Hi Jack,

    yes indeed. I am the converted and I still need reminding of my feelings, but silence alone on this blog would not do Arthur Janov any justice and even you can't resist a rant!

    I am exploring this theme about the legal system because I would prefer those with emotional ears and a good heart learn something from my personal experience about how you can get hurt by using the legal (3rd line) system to cater for feelings.

    I would rather see the money go into a fund for poor people to get the therapy. How you decide who is worthy (from a limited fund) only the directors of the clinic know. . .

    Rant on.

    Paul G.

  13. Hi Jack, (and for Frank too);

    Let me go further:

    We need a Mercy department as well as a Justice department.

    Paul G.

  14. Paul: Remember, there is the Primal Foundation that can receive funds for future poor patients or for research. AJ

  15. Paul: A Mercy Department. What a good idea. AJ

  16. Hi Jack again,

    Sometimes you seem determined to maintain a certain 'position' even when people are agreeing with you.

    Art's a bit like it (how could he not be like that and developed Primal)? I'm a bit like it, we're all a bit like that too. We all need our own initiative for understanding. We all come "in" with our own angles.

    Paul G.

  17. Hi Art,

    I confess, Mercy Dept. isn't an original idea of mine, I think I got it from Robert Bly, or Noame Chomski, or some other dissenter.

    Paul G.

  18. ”Paul: A Mercy Department. What a good idea. AJ”

    What a nice tone from Art and Paul to be "listening" to... for the rest of us… what a nice tone as could bring about flourishing thoughts of what could be done in life.



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.