Monday, September 19, 2011

On Hypnosis (Part 26/26 ... The End)

Uses and Ethics of Hypnotherapy

Does hypnosis have any uses? I think so, in two ways. As the forefathers of psychology discovered, hypnosis is experimentally useful as a medium for demonstrating aspects of consciousness and therefore the distortions of consciousness which we have termed neurosis. It seems to pull off its own mask and in so doing uncovers the dynamic of neurosis: the dissociation from Pain. It provides confirmation of the crucial physiological component of memory, the imprinting of trauma, and the physiological effort needed to keep it unconscious. It explains the basis for suggestibility. Through its evident failings, we may better appreciate the meaning of experience. To effect lasting change, so that someone has complete rather than neurotic experience, consciousness must work as a whole. 

Having said that, it should be noted that all of the above can be arrived at without once applying hypnosis. These matters are continually demonstrated in Primal Therapy, which is an entirely conscious process.

Perhaps the only occasions when hypnosis is unquestionably valid is in cases of chronic and terminal illness, to ameliorate painful physical conditions, and in surgery. Dissociation as part of the repertoire of the human psyche has long proven an adaptive response to excessive pain. That, after all, is the basis of neurosis. Someone in great physical pain or suffering the nightmares of debilitating disease might as well make good use of this capability. By all means, reach for the internal morphine.

As a foundation for psychotherapeutic treatment, however, I cannot support hypnosis. It runs counter to the very principles and processes of consciousness upon which health stands. In fact, hypnosis itself demonstrates why it is invalid because it reveals itself to be an active agent of neurosis. I cannot see how treating the disease with more of the disease can be helpful in any way. Hypnotherapy relies upon a diminution rather than a replenishing of consciousness. It models and amplifies the dissociation inherent in neurosis. It tends to take a single-cause view of symptomatology, thus bolstering the illusion of short cures. There is a reliance upon external authority as opposed to a trust of inner processes. There is an imposition of foreign ideas and assessments of reality that foster the very kinds of neurotic dependency and susceptibility which therapy should be aiming to resolve.

No matter what the apparent outcome, to render someone still more unconscious of his Pain means to take from him his only chance at real health. Worse still, it means to widen the internal split and deepen the disease.

In hypnotherapy or in hypnosis you can be told you are cold when you are really hot, you can be told you feel good when you feel bad, that you are comfortable when you are really in Pain. You can be told that your hands are numb and that you can numb the pain in other parts of your body simply by touching those spots with your hands. You can be told that you are eating divinity fudge when you are not, that you can recall and repress pieces of a forgotten memory at will and this will put an end to your suffering, or that you are going to return to a traumatic event in one of your past lives in order resolve your problems in this life.

As I discussed before, one can be suggested in a hypnotic state that one is undergoing a burn by a match and actually produce blisters. Thus meaningful sounds emanating from someone else's mouth enter the patient's brain and change his physiology and cellular activity enough to produce a burn blister. This phenomenon raises important philosophic and psychological questions as to the nature of reality. For if you produce a burn blister and you are not burned, what is real? If you are hypnotized to feel comfortable, when in fact you are very uncomfortable, what is real? In these hypnotic experiments, the primacy of psychological events over external stimuli is clearly evident. That is to say that reality is really first of all a matter of perception. What is really happening is that through someone else's ideation, a memory is evoked which takes primacy over current reality. This again is the Primal position -- that the past is prepotent over the present. Clearly there would be no burn mark if one had not already had the experience of the previous burn. And secondly, the concept of burn must also have been in the mind beforehand, otherwise there could be no manipulation. 

What is actually being manipulated, in fact, in one's history and the power of that history is manifest in the fact that a burn blister can be reproduced from a past memory with no current reality involved at all. Thus, the hypnotist says you are being burned, the brain scans it's memory for previous burns, and that memory innervates the cells to produce cellular change. In this way, someone else's reality can change your basic brain functioning and immune processes. This is the essence of neurosis: we first respond to our history, and then our current reality.

So it is clear that we have two realities, a subjective and an objective one. It is when we are disengaged from the subjective reality that ideas from the outside will have primacy. When we are no longer anchored in ourselves, external forces become our key reality and subjective realities become secondary. Nowhere is this more clear than with the masses who are manipulated by politicians by the use of abstractions and ideologies that only symbolically fill the void of real need.

In both hypnosis and neurosis you "buy somebody else's program." If you are solidly rooted in yourself no one can convince you that when you are cold you are hot, and certainly nobody could tell you are not in Pain when you are. Our genetic legacy allows us to be unaware and unconscious at times, When this goes on for an extended period of time, it becomes neurosis.

The practice of Primal Therapy shows that it is possible for the conscious, cortical mind to dissolve into the all-important contents of the subconscious without surrendering an awareness of what is happening while it is happening. 

Awareness must be allowed in because it has an important role to play in the process of healing. That role is attaching meaning to the Pain, mediating and communicating insight, and integrating and applying the experiences of the lower levels to present life. It is vital for a person descending into unconscious realities to know how he got there and how he got back. It is too important a journey to make with his "eyes closed."

* * * *


  1. "Clearly there would be no burn mark if one had not already had the experience of the previous burn."

    Thank you for this explanation. much better than telling me to stop being so intellectual.

    I'm on your side, Art. We need to provide a really good intellectual argument.

    in the above explanation you say "Clearly" but it is not yet clear from a purely intellectual point of view. we need controlled experiments to prove the link between a hypnotically induced burn mark, and the patient's traumatic history.

    we need to do really basic experiments so that the reviewers cannot get confused. i know you don't have the money. i'm just getting intellectual on you and i would like it if others joined in.

    earlier i was saying there must be a lot of documented evidence to support the use of therapeutic drugs. that evidence would show which parts of the brain are most targeted and the patient's subjective reports. this evidence alone could provide a solid argument to support the existence of an imprint. we need to study that evidence.

    hypnotherapists, cognitive therapists, and psychiatrists all believe in the patient's reports, and none of them are interested in the lower brain areas and the ongoing physiological problems. but DRUGS are very visible and easy to monitor when they are tested on poor little animals, and they come with a lot of documentation - not just patient testimonials.

  2. It must be very difficoult to understand ... to absorb that a professor can walk around and be hypnotized in his role as a great professor ... professor in the psychology field. But it is not difficult to understand that this is the case when we look at the emotional consciousness of what primal therapy reports.

    That... one can just be in the thinking brain and get a role as professor is because there is a mathematical approach to look at life ... I mean it is not difficult to "learn" that 2 + 2 = 4... it’s not difficult that it make you feel "happy" when you ingested a lot of alcohol... alcohol to quiet pain you do not know about. Its”logic" to learn a behavior when punished if you do not follow established rules... that is not difficult to understand. But it is difficult to understand... feel for a child forced into this hell.

    To understand something as painful ... painful that we had to "understand" in order to not feel the pain of what we could not endure ... that is impossible to understand ... if we not follow these ”symptoms" ... symptoms of everyday life... symptoms plaguing us in to the point that we can become professors to ease our pain... a form of self-hypnosis because of pain impossible to understand... pain a child can feel and be "smart" with... to not die.

    The hypnotic state is an auto-suggestion against life-threatening experiences with depression and anxiety as an explanation ... symptomatic explanations for the misery ...close but still far from what sufferings contains.

    We will never get out of our hypnotized state until we can relive how feelings are stocked in the feeling brain. We are the thinking brain until this occurs.


  3. Art

    Some thoughts lead to feelings while others do not… that is the reason why I believe... it is better you continue writing on hypnosis in relation to depressin and anxiety because it creates a completely different idea of what depression and anxiety actually is... it helps me to think differently about the phenomenon of anxiety and depression… phenomennom to not be knowen. Thoughts that lead esteem.


  4. I really enjoyed this series and regret it has come to an end. Thank you Dr Janov, and for all your blogs.
    Victoria B.

  5. Victoria: There is much more to come. I begin on psychoanalysis now. art

  6. An email comment:"I have found your blogs on hypnosis informative. I am not a hypnotherapist i should say i just want some clarification. We do hear in the media about regression to childhood under hypnosis with all sorts of reports about alien abduction, incest etc.etc..From a primal perspective Is the reliving of past events under hypnosis factually accurate in your opinion. If not what parts are and what parts are affected by therapist suggestion."

  7. And my answer: I have done hypnosis a hundred years ago, not much of an exaggeration since I have been in practice for 60 years. You can get subjects into their past but it is bidon, false, and never curative because the connecting link, the frontal cortex has been suppressed in order to hypnotize the person. So they wallow, make false connections, and it stays a parlor game, helping no one. art

  8. Frank, your English has improved. I like your point of view.

  9. Art, ever since i joined this blog i wanted to know if the primaller was aware that he was primalling. i asked that question over and over but never got a direct answer (or at least so i thought). i never saw the answer in any of your posts for all of these years, and never saw it in your Primal Healing. bizarre. i think my brain is bizarre!! i really am hypnotised. oh well. i'll get there. knowing that the feeling is not real.....that will make it much easier for me to enter a feeling of impending death or whatever it is that makes me feel a subtle danger all day every day (and night).
    thank you for all the posts and i'm glad to see there's a lot more to come.

  10. A comment from Jack:"Art: The most gross act of suggestion is that of parents imbuing the notion of God into their children. It frightens the hell out of children of an ever vigilant creature looking over their shoulder. Yet this notion gets passed on from generation to generation.

    Unless and until the neurologist begin to see Primal Theory this notion will persist. Why the reluctance can only be explained by neurosis itself and it's grip on humanity. If ever there was a means of dividing us from one another can only be seen clearly through religion. Hypnosis/neurosis I accepted as one and the same thing after reading The Primal Scream.

    But then neurologist are equally unaware of the contents of their own subconscious (unconscious).

    Ah well!!


  11. Hi everybody, part 1:
    Following on from the subject and problem of suggestion/ neurosis/ hypnosis:
    Where I live is therapy centre of the universe. A group of several colleagues and associates including me have been or are still in therapy. We are supposedly/allegedly dealing with (or have dealt with) 'core issues'. There are about 8 of us in various types of therapy.
    In particular there is the influence of Roberto Assagioli and 'Psychosynthesis'. How easy it is to manipulate the constellation of a persons' psyche so that they emerge "Psycho-synthesised". This is perfectly summarised in the following sound-bite:


    What does this actually mean? (I was in 'Psychosynthesis for two years' and that didn’t help me answer the question either).

    Because I read the Primal Scream 26 yrs ago and believed in the contents, all the various therapy I have had since has accumulatively lead me to my true feelings, eventually. As a consequence of this convoluted intentional regression over many years I have uncovered a complete absence of any "psychological future" for me at all. I mean that for me, when I started to break down, what I imagined was my future turned out to be a complete travesty/ fantasy (3rd line) based entirely on the pressure of my past pains.
    For me to fully feel these pains (on-going) there has had to be a temporary removal from inside of me of any future expectations at all. Even the expectation that I should live (or die) or cry out. . . These are the best words yet that I can find to describe the "suspension" of my belief/ defence system thus allowing my pain to surface and be consciously re-lived.

    Who (in psychosynthesis) therefore, is constructing the psychological future of the client and from what, out of what material?

  12. Part 2:
    Whether they know it or not, I think the psychosynthesis therapists are exploiting their clients' fear of pain and of fully re-living it by allowing them a partial release of primal pain followed by a partial reconstruction of their future expectations as they go along. Thus a few tears about the past enables a newly modified repressive/ belief system in the client, all the time 'coached' by the therapist.

    This seems to me like a form of self hypnosis, the client confabulates a ‘mantra’ to repeat, based on their own future hopes (such as: “clear boundaries” or “I will achieve my goals” or “I will survive”).

    By incorporating 'spirituality' into the equation clients can believe that a greater force than themselves is working on their behalf to oversee the new construct, namely the clients' new future. This is all a 3rd line fantasy. A 3rd line fantasy feeding on the clients’ own pain and electing a nefarious substitute parental permission.

    It seems to me that the people I know coming out of therapy and particularly ‘psychosynthesis’ are really just the same as they were before but more neurotic/ hypnotised and with extra defences against their pain. These ex clients seem to "know what they want" and become expert at re-confabulating past history to justify their brave new future.

    They all (like me) were once quite gullible people trying to grow out of co-dependency. These need to 'strike out' and 'reach for something new'. We are the ones who were probably thwarted in our attempts to be real from age 10 months or so, we were thwarted from 'getting' or 'having' or even 'rejecting'. Christmas as well as potty at ‘gun point’. We were completely controlled (or unsupervised, ie: neglected) and remain in need of 'coaching'.

    But 'coaching' a new future on top of unexpressed (or only partially expressed) pain is just “glossing over” isn’t it?

  13. Part 3:
    Even if the therapist allows the client to reconstruct their future all by themselves (without and 'suggestion', which I some-how doubt) then it follows the client has to continually re-write their history as well. . . Or wrap it up in a new container, or some other 3rd line force downward.
    The pressure of this downward force has driven some of us to behave quite chameleon like, forever changing colour to adapt to a new future but predictably inconsistent. Still acting out the counter-dependency their parents never knew how to coach them through, but describing this to themselves as “my new life”.
    I feel the therapist is encouraging them to act out this new 'future' in the here and now.
    As if acting out counter-dependence as an adult is going to lead to real independence later. . . Surely it’s too late for that?

    Surely we have to relive the hurt of these slights and betrayals and neglects first before we can grow out of our dependent and co-dependent fixations. We can’t get a new life before dealing with the old one, fully. This does not mean that our lives will not improve until forever later, it means we have to make those connections bottom to top, right to left. ASAP. Start the process now! As Jack said: “Just F*****g cry, scream etc! ! !

    So I conclude by saying that 'psychosynthesis' is a form of hypnotism; because it allows the client to fantasise ‘inside their neurosis’ on the basis of partially retrieved pain and memory. This just makes for incomplete and unworkable futures. Projected futures. In a way psychosynthesis is the ultimate narcisistic cult because through the 'therapeutic alliance & transference' the clients’ expectations about anything (in their presumed new future) can be validated in their own mind, by association. Psychotherapeutic Flattery/Incest is what I call it.
    In this loose group I mentioned I am fairly certain that I am the only one re-living past traumas. I am absolutely certain I am the only one who communicates with the others. It has been 2yrs since I started breaking down and 1 yr since I discovered this blog. In this entire time they never called me and only have shallow and glib things to say about everything. This is a lonely blow to encounter. Though I have mentioned Primal to this group and forward the occasional email they seem way too defended against any discussion of the facts. Most are nonchalant and look at me with patronising deference. I’m the old fart who breaks down and cries. So What?

    I am left in a tricky situation because I thought these people were my friends.
    Paul G.

  14. An email comment:
    "I have found your blogs on hypnosis informative. I am not a hypnotherapist i should say i just want some clarification. We do hear in the media about regression to childhood under hypnosis with all sorts of reports about alien abduction, incest etc.etc..From a primal perspective Is the reliving of past events under hypnosis factually accurate in your opinion. If not what parts are and what parts are affected by therapist suggestion."

  15. And my answer:
    Here is the problem. Unconsciousness is the problem. You cannot get well with more of it. You need full consciousness to make the connection that will get rid of your pain. Yes you can obey instructions but that cannot make permanent change. I myself have used hypnosis (a hundred years ago) to regress to childhood, and yes we do get accurate childhood scenes but NO connection. And no change. art


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.