Sunday, October 23, 2011

On a Few Kindly Words

I watched Sixty Minutes last night as Andy Rooney said goodbye to TV. In his goodbye speech he noted that he became a writer because a teacher once said to him, “You know you can really write. Keep it up.” That was it; one sentence that set him a life pursuit. And I thought how little it takes to help kids find a direction in life. Just a few words when the child is seven or eight, a few words of encouragement is all she needs to pursue a talent. And how rare is that encouragement. Why is that? Maybe parents cannot see their child for who she is. Maybe they are so into their own need for encouragement that they cannot see that need in others. And it doesn’t even have to be direct encouragement. So many of us remember the name of a kind teacher decades later, and remembered that her kindness got us to study and learn; not the readin, writin, and rithmatic admonishments of our leaders. It is kindness that gets us motivated and always will be.

I still remember the names of my grammar school teachers who talked to me with warmth and caring. Mrs. Lopez taught me Spanish and Mr. Summers taught me typing. I still am good at that many decades later. And I remember my teacher, Mrs. Kirk, who took me to the zoo when I was in kindergarten at age 6. She recognized that I had a mentally ill mother, something I did not know, and wanted to be kind and caring. I only realized years later that she selected only me to go to the zoo. So how come after all this time I remember their names and not any of the others? And how come I learned what they taught? They fulfilled a deep need, a need in all of us, that I was not aware of. And they were human and acted like humans, not just like “teachers.” Isn’t that a lesson in all of our endeavors? What works is humaneness, a little caring and a little encouragement. It is not strictness and a driving teacher or boss. The good people make you want to learn because in that learning is love or how it gets translated.

And what amazes me is how little it takes. Just a few words over many years can make a difference. It says, “You are good. Keep it up.” Instead, because it is lacking, the child grows up acting out the need by driving herself so that others will say, “you know you’re good.” And then she comes to us as a patient to cry out, “Say I’m good!” Why? Because all the new encouragement still makes her feel empty and dissatisfied.

And current praise won’t be enough because of the critical period; that is the time when needs must be fulfilled. Encouragement at age seven is important, and when it isn’t there it will help slightly to get it later on. It will never stop the act-out if you cannot get it when you need it. Needs must be fulfilled on a timetable and only then. Then the love is locked-in and keeps us safe and content for life. When fulfillment is not there we are locked-into trying to get it forevermore. And “tough love” ain’t it. You can scare kids into behaving but that is not the same as loving them and having them really want to behave. Isn’t that true of all of us?


  1. Hi,

    Nobody noticed I was good at woodwork. Why the posh school I went to had such a good carpentry shop I really don't know. Only me and one other pupil went in there.

    The obsession with academia is borderline psychopathic. What point is there in training the intellect to such a degree at such young ages?

    Politicians argue about why Britain lost its' industries and crafts and blame the militant unions for strangling it out of global competition but this obsession with training the intellect is the real cause.

    As Andrew says, it's just another way to keep plenty of 3rd line pressure down on feelings.

    It is the repression of the older generation being forced onto the younger. In UK for about 20yrs now people get degrees but can't use them because there are so many people with them anyway. Over educated at 23! Nuts.

    Paul G.

  2. Well kindness and encouragement can work at any age. A few days a go I wrote a letter -to -the editor about a political matter, and the reply from the editor, after submitting it, was simply :" Beautiful. I`ll run it". That put a big smile on my face.I had put more of my soul into that letter than usual, went over it for a long time in my mind. Any rejection, or even worse, indifference, would have been a bit of a shock. I also have to thank this editor for once having offerred me a job writing a weekly political column for his paper: 150,000 circulation. I refused for various reasons, some of which may be pure cop-out . Could have talked about Primal in this column, and other related psychological and cultural addition to the poltical stuff.Maybe some other time.


  3. This hits home pretty hard for me, and god knows how many others.

    I learned to read and write when I was four years old, all by myself, I am told. I remember writing the names of songs (of a certain Finnish band) on a paper. I went to my dad and proudly showed him what I'd written. His reaction? Well, it wasn't really much of a reaction, just some kind of subdued attempt at a smile and some kind of subdued attempt at making some kind of approving sound.

    Others have had it shittier than me, of course. Not just lack of kind words, but straight up verbal and/or physical abuse. Luckily I never experienced that. But lack of encouragement and kind words also causes pain... so yeah. Good post, Art.

  4. you're right, art, but you know it's not that simple. my sister speaks slowly and carefully to her kids whenever she is giving them praise. she is very carefully "watering her plants". her two daughters, especially the oldest one, are responding to the praise and are trying very hard to bloom. her son doesn't try so hard despite all of the "praise" he's received.

    using her creepy smooth praising voice, my sister trained her oldest daughter to believe that uncle Richard is very sick and dangerous. now her teen-age daughter wants me to get help. my niece, who was one of my best friends, now believes i have an unhealthy addiction to primal therapy and that i have been influenced by the very sick Dr. Janov (her mother's words). it seems neither she nor her mother have any desire to read a single page of the science behind primal theory. the younger kids still seem to be more independent. i hope they will see reality. i am not allowed to visit them until i get "real help".

    maybe sick praise is better than no praise at all. i don't know.

  5. I liked this post. Yes, key people at key times can have such amazing impact. But I saw most teachers and the school system as phony and did not take praise seriously in high school. In fact, I generally despised praise as it was usually meant to trick or fool me into being manipulated. And praise from phonies was not anything worth having, anyway.

    Bribes suck, no matter where they come from. Whether money, praise or whatever, Bribes corrupt. Soon we are puppy dogs jumping up and down on our masters for praise. No, I’ll pass on that one.

    But I do maintain that the right kind of pat on the back is something everyone needs at some point early to give them the confidence to trust themselves and their own thinking. Most never learn to do that. Life certainly is stingy in handing out warmth and genuine concern. Most show warmth when they want something. That is why I do look a gift horse in the mouth. Just call me paranoid, I guess.

  6. some studies over the years have tried to compare the effectiveness of different types of therapy, such as cognitive versus insight. The results were that they found them to be all equally effective/ineffective. Interviewing patients too they found that the key element was the personality and kindness of the therapist or the 'common factors'. In short one say that humans need someone to trust, a secure base, a friend. Given this primary social condition great change is possible.

  7. Hi Art since I do n o t know to which of the German stem cell clinics You `re going to fly ...
    I have learned yesterday the " X Cell Center " in Cologne resp.Düsseldorf have been closed!! by the German authorities!
    It would be indeed a pity if You would fly in vain ... Yours emanuel

  8. Dr. Janov,

    You say: “Maybe they are so into their own need for encouragement that they cannot see that need in others.”
    I would say we don’t need the word “maybe”. What else could it be if not their own pain, their unfulfilled needs, that produces neglect and limitations?
    My mother would never and could never acknowledge me for who I am and would not allow me to seek higher education. To the contrary, she controlled my life by saying: you must take over the business, you don’t need a college degree. At other times she said: “ you don’t need what I couldn’t have”.

    Not only were kids not given direction, they were hindered from becoming who they really were.


  9. Emanuel: I had approval of the German government but just as I was getting on a plane they cancelled because the doctor is pregnant. art

  10. Emanuel: If anyone knows where they are doing legitmate st em cell work let me know. art

  11. Will: You know why the personality of therapist counts in all those therapies? Cause you are buying a good daddy and you really need a good daddy or mommy. The therapy you choose is part of your act-out. art

  12. Quote:"The therapy you choose is part of your act-out."

    That is irrefutable, Art, and that is the problem. The first instinct of the neurotic is to push back pain - not embrace it.

    It does not surprise me that people tend to come to you out of desperation rather than insight.

  13. How do we know when kind words become painkillers?

    I fully agree with you regarding the importance a few kindly words. However, will we ever know which child and, which need will respond positively to an encouraging word, look or gesture? I suppose that you implicitly assume that parents and teachers ought to have this talent to distribute caring gestures among their children and students.

    My mother, who by obeying a call in the Bible caused my epilepsy, fulfilled deep needs in me during my chidhood, which made me feel good until this day. However, that left my siblings with a lifelong envy and jealousy.

    I have other examples from PT when you fulfilled deep needs in me by accurate and pertinent comments at the right moment, while other patients felt rejected and disappointed by comments to them.

    Kind words in the right time, to a needing child, student may have lifelong, lasting effects. These effects have at the same time a startling resemblance to a painkiller. There is a risk that a neurotic habit is formed. Am I wrong?

    Jan Johnsson

  14. Barry, where are ya, my brother? have not heard from you in a while. Where have you been. Come on back and see us. I enjoyed your unique opinions. Hope all is well with you.

  15. Hi Sieglinde,

    -"My mother would never and could never acknowledge me for who I am and would not allow me to seek higher education. To the contrary, she controlled my life by saying: you must take over the business, you don’t need a college degree. At other times she said: “ you don’t need what I couldn’t have”-.

    It took me a long time to realise that the reason why my Dad persecuted me for not doing even better than the good results I was already attaining at school is because he himself flunked his privileged education. Some-how his lack of encouragement from his Dad became converted into persecution of me. . .

    Education is a hot potato. Rudolf Steiner recognised that children had different educational needs depending on type, in particular Steiner did not want to educate the 3rd line until the 2nd had acquired enough 'fulfilment' (my words, partly plagiarised from Art) . I am not a Steinerist though. Montisori recognised the need for education to be linked to 'practice', for there to be practical experimentation to demonstrate the 'rules', not just rote learning. I know some people who had that education and they're doing well. Luckily for me as a teenager I got a very good science education with loads of practical experimentation; linked to the theory.

    But it took me a very long time to realise that the woodwork I was (obviously) destined to actually do (as a life career and also for money) is actually an expression of science and technology.

    This is a good example of the "dumbing Down" that the 3rd line can do to better developed evolutionary expressions; IE: The trades are for stupid, un-evolved people.

    My concern here is that education (exclusively of the 3rd line) has become the new Holy Grail. It is a relatively new quest in the history of human endeavour, maybe a couple of centuries old and certainly since ww2 the quest for 3rd line nirvana has become the controlling factor in human evolution. Now that the technological off-shoots of science are modifying our physical existence at the molecular level we are truly in a unique new phase of evolution.

    That's why PT is so important and so essential to the future of Human Evolution. Pt is the 'quality control'. I digress.

    I tend to agree with Apollos' view of the controlling big brother elite (my words, Apollos' sentiment). In so far as 'control' and the need to feel 'in control' and then act out 'being in control' is so often driven by 1st line traumatised set points.

    It is therefore in the interests of the controlling elite to maintain a society ever increasingly dependent on the new 3rd line technologies because they allow a very small minority of 3rd line inclined personalities to achieve the status and earnings needed to keep the automatism ( dependency) going.

    Now we persecute 1st & 2nd line personalities for not being (academically) employable enough when actually there are not enough jobs in the 3rd line industries to employ even more than 10% of the adult population.

    You see, the 3rd line wants to make the 2nd and 1st line redundant. In this way we all capitulate to the status quo by striving to get or regretting not having gotten a degree.

    Then you find that most people do not use the degree for their living and usually agree that the main value in a university placement is to develop & maintain a good and stimulating social life.

    I understand I am being glib. I am not saying college is wrong but every time I find myself regretting not getting a degree I realise that all I missed was the opportunity to socialise with other young adults (in a learning environment). The 3rd line education I needed (as a young adult) came from my own efforts much later on) to learn specialised structural carpentry. A real science and technology, already 1000yrs old and still evolving.

    Paul G.

  16. Hi Jan,

    -"However, that left my siblings with a lifelong envy and jealousy.

    I have other examples from PT when you fulfilled deep needs in me by accurate and pertinent comments at the right moment, while other patients felt rejected and disappointed by comments to them"-.

    It's bound to be fortunate for some people that they find a link of trust with a parent substitute, a father figure who can also act as a therapist (and would that not also be because He Is Not Dad)?

    For other patients, they may need a therapist who definitely isn't a father figure because of the automatic mistrust the patient will not be able to resist in himself.

    Further still, the complex dynamics of sibling rivalry compound over time so that (father figure not withstanding) who-ever felt the jealousy and envy most in the siblings will have to struggle with the double bind of being defended against being loved.

    Love will be rejected and the truth hurts most of all when we are rejecting love.

    I now know for sure why I could not (easily) become a therapist myself. I have so many 'rackets' going on in me like this I would not be able to see the wood for the trees and could easily leave my clients still further defended and messed up. That's just the 3rd line words.

    Sound familiar?

    Paul G.

  17. Hi Paul!

    I had a thought on the 3rd line (assumed level) being the holy grail of education. As I see it, based on John Taylor Gatto and at least 3 others, is that education is really deprivation of education, where students are denied as much learning as possible so they will be as dumb as possible. Popularly called “dumming down.”

    I would also suggest that strong logic and reasoning are also avoided, as well as a good deal of held back information on history. We can not learn from history that is kept from us. As well, much of “science” has little to no science in it. And the evidence often does not support the conclusions. Most do not know what real science is because most of us were never actually taught true, real, honest science and rules and methods of science.

    Sharp analytical deduction and reasoning do not come natural for any of us. It is a skill and a craft to be learned. Our parents were supposed to teach this to us but they let us down as usual. We either go get it for ourselves or we end up stumbling in the dark. But developing this razor sharp skill takes lots of practice and information gathering, along with a healthy degree of reasonable skepticism. We must learn to question everything thoroughly.

    The elite do not like insightful analytical thinking. It exposes them and their dirty deeds. And I so agree with you that they keep us dependent on high tech so that we remain helpless. But this I say, anyone can develop sharp effective analytical reasoning. It just takes lots of practice and use. With lots of use, the brain automatically will deduce patterns and make sense of things over time. I guarantee it ;-)

    But college degrees are used, primarily, to justify differences in pay. Jobs that require labor but not thinking, are said to be not worth paying much for. I say, any job that needs to be done, deserves a decent living wage. Hence, I am not well liked among employers. The pay scales need complete revision.

    I still marvel at the changes I see in you. You are a good example of the effectiveness of PT. It does seem to be producing results. But I tend to credit patients more than therapies, for only sincere application of the therapy by a patient can yield results, says I.

  18. Hi Paul,

    As a child my biggest desire was to become a “brain doctor”. The withheld education would have paved the way. I still wish I had a chance to become a neuro-scientist. All other education , and I have a few degrees, are nothing but a cheap substitutes and unsatisfying.

    I do believe I have a 2nd line education because I create wearable art, design with silk, alpaca and cashmere . I feel first what I must do. Only later I understand the needed mechanisms and strategies regarding how I complete what my feelings tell me. It comes from a gut feeling.

  19. Dr. Janov,

    Thanks for your answer. I will wait with anticipation.

    I truly would appreciate a short explanation on how Tricyclics, Imipramine and Cortisol results should be read. So far my personal experience is, endocrinologists don’t know what to do with the results and psychiatrists are not testing. As you know, insurance companies are not paying for these vital tests.


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.