Sunday, September 25, 2011

Revamping Psychology

What we need to do in psychotherapy is to rid ourselves of a class of elite cognoscenti who are the center of all psychologic knowledge. The patient is the only one who has knowledge of her unconscious. We therapists can only guess at it. When we operate on theories that are constructed out of the unconscious of psychologists rather than based on the internal reality of the patient, we become tinkering mechanics, altering our techniques more out of whimsy than science. Until now, there has been no theoretical web that encompasses both psychology and neurology, although there have been attempts to join psychoanalysis with neurology. It is, by and large, a shotgun wedding. It is the same as plastering an old outdated notion onto new science and hoping it will stick. If psychoanalysis ignores key internal realities, it doesn’t matter that we adhere certain neurologic facts to it. It cannot work. Why would we take a theory one hundred years old and join with it research that may be six months old? The marriage can’t last; the groom is far too old for the bride who has new ideas and new information. The youngster is trying to lead the old man but the old man is too feeble to keep up. Better a young theory that works within neurologic principles.


  1. This is what I meant when I said some time ago that I can see the new psychology science being born out of the worlds of neurology, in terms of going mainstream. That is, people who are trained into a neurological outlook will be on the prowl for a fresh psychology theory that integrates with their neurology foundation.

    From here, I can see a developing respect for Primal Theory - it's the jacket that fits. The ancient psycho-babble brigade need to fall on their swords.

  2. Oh my God, Art, THIS IS IT!

    Same topic but another aspect - Two psychotherapists, and each time it happened. OK sometimes a patient is in the dark and doesn't know why she is reacting as she is (in this instance, me), but at other times you most certainly do know what you meant, you know they actually HAVE misunderstood what you were saying this time, and yet it is always silence, followed by a brief but patient look, followed by a "Noooooo, what you meant was......what it illustrates is....." and there is sweet you know what all you can do to insist otherwise, because the shrink is right, he or she is the knowledgeable one, God descended, studied years and years, practiced even longer, so KNOWS it ALL blah blah blah.
    End of story. You sit there with no chance to say anything. Stupid 'girl' its you who has it wrong every time(ha!). If lucky(?) you may be allowed to say something whilst being again looked at with both tolerance and a vague and polite interest.

    So what do you do? What can you do? Yup, get up and leave. Walk out and away. End of therapy. Goodbyeeeee to all that money spent. Possibly back where you started. Short rest, feel crap, look for a new therapist. Same old Same old. Its enough to make you want to slit your little throat :)
    Thank God for primal therapy, and thank you. Thank you!

  3. An email comment:"Good critique. You could be addressing that monster of a chimera known as neuropsychoanalysis.

    I recommend you read Animals in Translation, by Temple Grandin. Grandin is an autistic woman who designs housing for livestock and knows the minds of animals better than normal people. It's because her brain works like their brains.

    There's a passage in her book where she describes animals as having simple, straightforward feelings -- they never have conflicting feelings like adult humans do. Autistic people also have simple, straightforward feelings -- they say what they mean and can't repress feelings. Animals and autistics don't have highly functional frontal cortices to fog things up. What you see is what you get.

    That's why primal works. You descend down into the animal brain and have simple, straightforward feelings. The frontal cortex sits there quietly, letting the feelings come up and making sense of them from the bottom up. We become more like animals in primal, or like children, who have the same simplicity.

    Cortically imprisoned psychologists only have a functioning cortex and try to make sense of feeling from the top down, which is like trying to feed yourself up the a-hole. It's backwards. But they'll never get it, not even those who want to get it. Instead, they build edifices of words - lengthy tomes suitable for weight lifting. Think Alan Schore."

  4. And my answer: I think I read Grandin. I should have t he book here somewhere. Also a good critique. I think the more astounding realization beyond primal is how 200,000 shrinks manage to avoid the truth. Isn't that amazing? art

  5. An email comment:"Dr. Janov- Psychoanalysis studies ideational and emotional patterns, which do exist. Your approach is to purge ones self of pain using feeling as a guide. Both seem great to me! While your point about the healing power of making unconscious pain, conscious is well taken, the leap to "everything else is a waste of time" seems a bit like throwing the baby out with the bath water. It's all good."

  6. Hi, I feel the remarks Art has made about psychotherapy are best summarised in the two ideas that (1) psychological pain repressed makes us ill in many different ways and the purpose of repression is to protect us from over-reaction in the short term. His 2nd idea that psychotherapy should therefore have as it's main aim the uncovering and full re-integration of the traumatic experiences (via conscious re-living them) holds very watertight.

    My third idea (I don't care if it's Arts' or not) is that everything else is actually a distraction from these two watertight ideas. I have concluded "everything else is a waste of Human Potential" because most people really are looking for a cure to their problems, I do not believe in the "Horses for Courses" theory in which we supposedly choose the therapy that suits our particular personality.

    Personality is not Essence and Essence cannot grow if it is sidetracked whilst personal ideas become the new mantra. The other therapies nearly all have some sort of "Ideational Mantra". which only boosts personality at the expense of Esssence. It's just pure bollocks!

    And yes that is a technical term.

    Paul G.

  7. Art: This is one of your best blogs, as far as I am concerned. That the medical, psychological and neurological profession has ignored Primal Theory for so long says it all.

    Not totally sure why this was the case in view of the fact that "The Primal Scream" became a best seller, BUT suspect that had they looked at it ... and been convinced; you would have rocked the capitalist system right out of existence. That, they were not going to allow, on any pretext ... unless you had given current psychologist permission to practice Primal Therapy from just reading your book. Sadly, this has become your legacy, even though I felt at the time, and do so to this day, that you were right to prevent the uninitiated to practice Primal Therapy.

    No amount of reasoning, be it scientific or otherwise is NOT going to shift this dynamic. Neurotic humans will never see the necessity to discuss feelings and its expression: too elusive for them to get their brains around (and sadly by my reckoning) some of your commentators. Sadly Art; and I am reluctant to say this, you are whistling in the wind.


  8. "seems a bit like throwing the baby out with the bath water"

    Primal Therapy is the baby. Everything else is the bath water. You can study a patient's ideational and emotional patterns.....or you can let him discover his own feelings and then his own thoughts. The primal solution is much smarter, and it's the only one that provides real evidence of success.

  9. Paul: Isn't it wonderful and reassuring to be so sure? art

  10. Neurosis is off course that most insidious of diseases, that almost perfect master of disguise. So in a sense it is not the 200,000 shrinks that you are fighting against Art, it is their neuroses perfectly camouflaged to provide them with the appearance of utter normality. But such is the nature of the disease, in my opinion, that it protects itself at all costs, wears a mask of invisibility and leaves most of us totally blind to its very existence. That was the fight you took on when you began Primal Therapy, probably the hardest fight of all and I admire you all the more for it. I hope it is a fight that humanity can win, but given the nature of the disease, I am doubtful.


  11. Actually Art I am besides myself with surprise at how I cope with all the daft and bizarre failure in my sorry life. Now that I know my pain, now that I feel it. It sounds so crass to the uninitiated doesn't it? I am really surprised at the 'level playing field in my mind' that I now seem to have.

    "Object constancy" I think they call it. The problem with repressed pain is that it distorts what we thought was our objective view.

    Without us knowing it. This is an endless source of fascination if all you are interested in is the 'psycho-analytical' reflection, as I was.

    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.