Thursday, October 20, 2011

On Mindfulness Therapy: Or Mindless Therapy

So, Drs. Dan Siegel and Jack Kornfield are giving a seminar in November at UCLA called, “Mindfulness, Healing, and the Neurobiology of Love.” Clearly it is exactly the opposite of what they advertise. And then there is the dubious claim that after the workshop the attendee will:

  • Identify three ways to heal trauma
  • Describe the nature of self
  • Demonstrate mindful practice to reduce suffering
  • Apply trainings of love, kindness, forgiveness and compassion
That is a tall order; far too tall for what they offer. And as a bonus we can get credit toward our professional license by attending. It is recognized by the California Board of Psychology. Dr. Kornfield, a former Buddhist monk and now is director of the Insight Meditation Society. Dr. Siegel is clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA.

So, what is it this mindfulness? I was going to say, more booga booga but I won’t, just yet. But we have to ask the question, “Where is the science in psychology and psychiatry today. What happened to our field? Is it bankrupt and taken over by the mystics? If so, why?

One reason is that too many of these professionals are left brainers, in their heads, intellectuals in the worst sense of the term, and they cannot merge ideas with feelings to see how necessary feelings are. Or in this case to use the intellect to get to feelings is nonsense; as anyone who reads neurology would know. And I have heard Dr. Siegel lecture on it so he should know. But the longest trip in the world for him is the trip from the left to right brain, from the neocortex to the limbic area. And what he knows but doesn’t is that we use the late-developing neocortex to suppress feelings when they are too strong; so to use that structure to get in touch with feelings is an oxymoron.

What they say is that you need to become extremely watchful and aware and that makes you at peace with yourself. Watch your in-breathing and out-breathing so you are more mindful. Cultivate detachment and become an observer of yourself; how you move, how you walk and how you breathe. To be very aware of everything around you. And on and on—if you want to become a Hindu. But is this science? Is this what the professor at UCLA should be teaching? Well, they say, we have the research to back up our claims. “We change vital signs and behavior”, and they may well have it. But let’s consider. There is an imprint of key memories going back to just after conception. There are literally hundreds of studies now of this research. Further, it seems like the imprint is engraved by a process of epigenetics involving methylation and other chemicals. The imprint is carried forward and affects behavior and the later development of disease. And we are driven by the imprints all of our lives; which is not more than saying that we are the result of our history, our very early history. If we do not believe this than we are “free” to concoct any kind of theory. But if we follow science we are constrained by it; that is, we must acknowledge history and memory. How can we ignore history and be liberated? No matter what any guru says there is no way to ignore our past and get access to our feelings and become “conscious.” Conscious of what? The external, the outside? That does nothing to help us access our feelings inside.

What they are teaching is how to suppress and get on in life, and then be more kind and forgiving. I repeat: there is no way to avoid historical imprints and be liberated. How can we avoid ourselves our feelings and we kinder? They offer to be more focused on the minutia and therefore we will be able to heal trauma. They don’t say how. They don’t say what trauma is and how it gets installed in our brains and bodies. It is all amorphous and ethereal, as all booga booga should be. We just fill in the blanks. But one thing we know; you can use the top level to block access to feeling, not access it. vTo gain access the neocortex must cede to lower feeling levels of consciousness; must give way to feelings and let go of the intellect. But when you go to school and use your intellect every day for years it is not easy to let go of it. Intellect becomes the apotheosis, and takes the place of where feelings should be.

These people have abandoned our raison d’etre. People hurt; we need to help them with that hurt and find ways to undo it, not to help them play games with themselves. Yes it’s fun at $300 a weekend, but underneath it all people are looking for answers for their lives. We as professionals owe it to them.

Dr Siegel in his video says that in neurosis there is an imbalance in the two hemispheres and we need to bring them together so he suggests guided imagery, relaxation techniques and to be able to name the feeling accurately; he claims when you do that the whole system calms down. In short, to use the top level to bring the two sides together, when it is exactly the opposite; we descend below and to the right, experience feelings and allow them to join the left hemisphere, and then the whole system will calm down. It is all a mind game, and I must reiterate, no matter what the claim, not matter what the research you cannot ignore your own history and be liberated or learn to relax. It is our central reality. Yes, we can try this maneuver or that day after day and achieve a change in vital signs but I guarantee you that the imprint will live on down deep and do its damage constantly. The problem is that you have to do key gyrations constantly in order to achieve some semblance of normal. But it is only semblance, not organic. And as long as the imprint is there you always regress. How can you not?; as long as reality is there you will be subject to it. But of course all this is based on science. If you ignore it, if you avoid epigenetics and the imprint then you can manufacture any theory you want. Hence the merging with the mystics. And of course, the real problems is that devilish intellect that rules the field and makes the purveyors of feelings a pariah or someone not serious.

Siegel says we need to separate awareness from our feelings so you don’t moan and grown about your sadness; to get a handle on your feelings. Sounds good? Wrong. We don’t need a handle; we need our feelings. He thinks we can use awareness to help bring the two hemispheres together. Awareness is what separates them. Awareness came along millions of years after feelings. Why would we use to it for integration? Feelings are what integrates with intellect. Not vice versa. Primitive animal forms have some kind of awareness but they don’t have conscious/awareness; a sense of themselves and what they feel. In evolution the top level of the brain split off into awareness on the left and feelings on the right. Consciousness requires both. So there is awareness a la Siegel and then there is conscious/awareness. It is the latter that heals.

At the risk of being politically incorrect here we have a scientific congress by Siegel and Kornfield, organized by Solomon and Goldstein. I don’t think it is an accident that it is a Jewish operation. Jewish intellectuality is well known as Jews were in many countries where they had to carry their skills in their head since they were not allowed to carry any riches to other places. They were not allowed into the basic industry of America, iron, steel, coal, automobiles so they remained on the fringes, into the intellect. And they refined the intellect until it turned into its opposite, in this case: mindfulness turns into mindlessness as the intellect soars into never-never land, a combination of booga booga, Buddhism (or is that redundant?), taking pieces of neurology and applying it helter-skelter to psychology. Applying it according to a parti pris, an apriori set of ideas that are not organic to us humans. Neurology in this case is sorted and selected according to the intellect and wiggled into whatever hypothesis is concocted at the moment. It is a superimposed notion on human life rather than rising organically from our internal life; from our feelings. Ultimately, too many theories are simply ideas raised from the depths of the unconscious of the creator and elevated to the level of a principle.


  1. 1. Yep it's that same old story - doesn't matter what you're thinking about just so long as you keep thinking...and not feeling. You can think about fairies, the afterlife or even neurobiology. Doesn't matter. Just create that back-pressure from your over-activated neocortex to drive back the pain.

    You can even have the neocortex fool itself into thinking that it has resolved its horrid feelings by thinking about those feelings from its (inherently) abstract position. Poetic self-delusionment? I believe so.


    2. I think that one of the best ways to develop your uderstanding is to embrace rather than turn your back on contradictions. This has the effect of forcing you to reconcile the pieces that don't fit, and ultimately, if need be, change your view. This is what REAL scientists do.

    Psychology (or much of it) seems to survive by turning you back on facts and just believeing what you want to believe. As you describe it, Art, it seems to be a bit of a biggots industry. But industry is the word. If it makes money then hey who cares - you're in business!

  2. In the words of 1st officer Spock, Fascinating!

  3. My comments to Janov’s Reflections on Mindful vs. Mindless Therapy.

    The main reason I never tried to become a primal therapist was that I could not understand the logic of the traditional psychology, a fact that was reinforced when I at different occasions met cognitive psychotherapists. Those experiences made me feel blocked and stupid and think that my IQ, though high, was incorrectly measured and too low to allow me to enter into the field of psychology. However, I survived because I loved to work with people even if I had to do it without any formal exam.

    Your mindful Reflections are not only an excellent analysis of the dubious intellectual issue of mental “junk-bonds” by a group of officially recognized doctors. Your education is giving me, through its evolutionary logic, verbal clarity and elegance, a compensation for the traditional psychologic knowledge which for different reasons I was not able to digest. I can understand my own experiences in PT as well as I can enjoy your Reflections when I read them. To me that is conscious/awareness.

    The parallel between how the Jewish intellectuality was refined when the Jews were not allowed into much of the basic industry is a parallel to my own neurotic struggle to survive with a shameful illness like epilepsy. My epilepsy was “fortunately” such a present reminder of my imprinted pain that illogic, mindless and intellectual psychologic knowledge would not enter. Thank You for having put everything together! In this field, You are nothing less than a genius!

    Jan Johnsson

  4. It is amazing how many practising psychologists are employing half-baked ideas and theories, whether it is Dr. Phil (plus plugging another book no doubt) on TV or your local therapist. I know some clinical psychology courses do try to make students more scientifically aware by makeing them take part in active research, in addition to refining their clinical skills. But for the most part it is amazingly unscientific. I am doing some research on a condition called trichotillomania, or hair pulling and hair root eating to be less technical sounding. I saw a documentary on youtube where a therapist was trying to get the person to stop hair pulling by getting them to clench their fists each time they got an impulse or to change their living habits to avoid certain situations. But there was no attempt at a theoretical understanding of the condition or any attempt to reflect on what he was telling his client. He was merely going along blindly with cog/behav. orthodoxy which basically says that we are empty vessels and can be retrained if we apply ourselves enough. Then at the end of the documentary when treatment had failed and the patient relapsed the therapist blamed the patient for not following his instructions closely enough. What a load of hocus pocus and no wonder it gives psychology a bad name. That does not mean that there is not a lot of good science going on but I dont think much of it is filtering down to therapeutic practice.

  5. Hi,

    Only $300 per weekend?

    My oh my! Enlightenment at basement bargain prices.

    But of course, the basement's actually completely locked up and out of sight, way below, down & out

    of sight.

    Down there, where

    the poor people live. . .

    Paul G.

  6. "These people have abandoned our raison d’etre. People hurt; we need to help them with that hurt and find ways to undo it, not to help them play games with themselves. Yes it’s fun at $300 a weekend, but underneath it all people are looking for answers for their lives. We as professionals owe it to them."

    I really love that quote, Art. And as long as it's entirely client-centered wherever it may lead, I agree with you 100% on that quote.

  7. An email comment:

    No words can express my love for this man!

    Dr. Janov’s numerology chart does indicate two master numbers in his name : (soul urge – 11/2; heart’s desire - 11/2) and a strong potential for intuition (psychic – 2).

    However, how did this man develop such a powerful, vital therapy (Primal Therapy)?
    He was an ‘ordinary’ psychoanalytic talk therapist.

    Dr. Janov had a compassion for people and he was open to exploring the healing of deeply wounded persons. Many angels and archangels were attracted to him and his exploration.
    Dr. Janov was open to new approaches. He had the courage and curiosity to move into new areas. His work broke open the barriers to healing repressed wounds.

    He had the courage and the persistence to follow through with his break-throughs: his therapy desperately needed by our society."

  8. About ignoring our past...

    It seems to me that conventional psychology & psychiatry only recognize the importance of traumatic events in chilhdhood when it comes to dissociative disorders, and sometimes PTSD.

    The most difficult dissociative disorder, dissociative identity disorder, also known as multiple personality disorder, is interesting. I was watching a documentary (from 1992) about it last night. In it one woman, when one of her personalities that was able to remember childhood events came out, was guided by the therapist to remember more. It turned out that the personality remembered sexual abuse (multiple personality cases almost always have a history of being sexually abused as a young child). In the documentary, she seemed to be reliving it, she was clearly at least in a pre-primal state, pounding the wall etc.

    Her "real" personality did not remember anything about this afterward. When a video of the therapy session was shown to her, she started dissociating again, and another, violent and self destructive personality emerged. It is recognized that different personalities are a defence against the trauma.

    Isn't there something to be learned about this? The possibility that less severe disorders are also the result of early trauma? That for most people the defence system doesn't have to go as far as developing different personalities, but the defences they do have are there because of early trauma? And that the trauma can occur as early as in the womb? And that it is possible to relive it and integrate it, in the right therapeutic setting, and resolve the symptom(s)?

    -Antti Jalonen-

  9. Mindfulness meditation is the current zeitgeist in psychology. Coupled with cognitive therapy, you get MBCT - mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. It is all based on the same mechanism -- detachment from feeling. Indeed, meditation can make you calm, focused, resistant to stress, and more functional, but you must do it daily. In that sense, meditation is an addiction that must be continued day in, day out to get the desired effect. Stop doing it and your feelings come up in the form of anxiety, depression, name it.

    I've found meditation to be useful for dealing with extreme stress or primal overload, but never have I mistaken it for cure. It is only a temporary solution until I get to feelings. Done to excess, meditation compresses and encapsulates feelings into a tiny compartment and buries it deep within the brain. Long-term meditators come to see painful feelings as “illusions” when in fact, they are the royal road to truth. But you can’t tell that to someone who’s had a virtual lobotomy through years of meditation.

  10. Deep deep in thought......with no sense of your surroundings, no sense of your body, no sense of your history and your relationship to the world and sense of anything other than the concept you are thinking about....
    When you are that deep in thought...
    you have no sense of self.

    Feeling people never enter that type of intellectual trance. Even when they are deep in thought, they continue to feel the fresh sensation of full conscious awareness - they feel their body, they hear their surroundings, they are more alive - more 'awake'. Their thoughts are fresh and alive too. They don't struggle to find the right direction in a numb maze of unrealistic possibilities. They are always alert to the meaning and purpose of their thoughts. They are alive; fully conscious. That's why their thoughts are clear.

  11. while there is some truth to what you say, your riff about Jewish operation/Jewish intellectuality is, for me, disturbing, and over the top; sorry, i'm not towing the party line on this one...

  12. Antti: When I wrote the primal scream I wrote the repession produces two selves; the real and the unreal self. The unreal self is who we seem to be, and the real self is hidden and involves our feelings. In my 60 years of practice and work in hospitals I have NEVER seen this multiple selves phenomenon. art

  13. Bruce: beautifully put. art. Bruce and Peter Prontzos were essential to the making of my book Life before Birth. Bruce is a science writer. art

  14. I'd like some comment about that post above by someone who thinks that angels and archangels were attracted to Janov because of his theories.

  15. welcome back Antii. nice to hear from you again. multiple personality disorder became a fashionable diagnosis soon after the fictional book Sybil was released. the book was based loosely on a real woman. later there was speculation that the real case was a hoax. this controversy made the whole idea of 'repressed memories' less fashionable in the shrink community. so we went from multiple personalities to no repressed memories at all. people often accuse Art of being old-fashioned. i tell them his therapy is not fashionable, but it is up to date with all the latest research in biology.

  16. People who primal and know some of their story I think would find mindfulness useful to help them get into their feelings. You are feeling uncomfortable, observe the feeling, it’s pain of course, observe that, the unpleasantness, yuk, it’s awful. As it’s coming up have to scrunch the eyes – blink so as not to focus too intently – as you do it really starts up – go with the pain, let it in now, oh boy here it well and truly comes – to crying or first line, whatever stage you’re at – then identify what’s happening. Already probably have a fair idea as it may be old stuff but going deeper.

    A bit off topic now, but I do have a query about “epigenetic reprogramming” from the front page A Reader’s response for “On the Imprint: “In regard to Imprinting”. For that to occur the author writes every part of our system involved in the trauma has to be activated.

    Granted that in primal we relive as if we are actually there, wouldn’t it also follow that in birth primals it is in the actual contractions that reliving needs to take place. Take as an example a baby who is held back at birth. One can imagine the enormous struggle, on the one hand the thrust of those contractions pushing up to have baby born, on the other hand, the downward thrust of crushing contractions as mother pushes baby back down, holding on tight, stopping, containing, not releasing. Baby being thwarted at every turn.

    The feelings that go along with that – trapped, stuck, no way out, no light at the end of the tunnel, all too much, can’t take any more, no air (buildup of CO2 in blood vessels lead to splitting headaches later on), what all this reveals about the relationship with mother, the kind of person she is, the reasons for the birth.

    The pure physicality of the experience, to relive contractions that brutally crush, tear and pull down – how much of that happens at the centre, is what I’ve always wondered.


  17. Hi,

    Andrew, I agree with your observations about contradictions. We seem to have 'blind spots' (from others' points of view) which allows us to manoeuvre in contradictory ways. Or so it looks from the point of view of others. We may discover their point of view and see something about our contradictions and our split up selves that we could not see before.

    From the perception of others (and when I read my past contributions to this blog) I see that my contradictions are still there in my opinions and posturing!

    I think it's also valuable to see that (for the reptile in us) attack or assert is also a form of defence, or rather a 'self preservation' characteristic. Perhaps the sympathetic form. . . We are all lizards manoeuvring to a better pond, a better rock, a better view of the sun.

    Bruce, I did TM for years and came to exactly the same conclusion. Actually I got right into the organisation because of their 'Stapatya Veda' Architecture and home building ventures. . .

    What a f*****g farce that turned out to be! So full of U turns and contradictions caused by their belief system not actually working out in the real world. I tell you the intellectuals that run TM are quite acquisitively chameleon, their interpretation of the Vedas is too literal and therefore naive. I've had enough of believing that a comfortable trance state will solve deep problems, it's pain avoidance bullshit.

    -"In my 60 years of practice and work in hospitals I have NEVER seen this multiple selves phenomenon"-.

    This appears to run contrary to the observations of others.
    In earlier posts you remarked about self deceit. . . Without the self reflective knowledge of PT, us neurotics and psychotics are not only driven (to act out) by our terror and drive to acquire but we are also unable to observe our manoeuvring as a predictable set of (split off) self preservation affects. Thus (without PT understanding) all of our behaviours and affects can and do look extremely capricious, to the point of their appearing to be a set of different personalities in the individual.

    I have found that what you say about feelings and the true self is absolutely true and also confirms the multi faceted nature of feelings as appearing to be a multiple personality. There are many different feelings / passions aren't there? I mean when intense traumatic feelings are split off from the organism the distortion or affect will appear to others as a disconnect or even multiple personality.

    But how do the affects feel for the person having them? Well, we can't easily OWN our OWN affects if we are deceived by our own ignorance or that of therapists.

    Misperception of the facts of our neurobiology and of the trauma that skews us.

    One thing that keeps bringing me back to my senses in all this is how profoundly obvious behaviours and affects become once you realise their evolutionary sources in our triune brain.

    Paul G.

  18. Hi Art,
    I believe that 'sense of normal' they're trying to emulate could be threatened in any way in order to demolish it. I mean the true challenge of a primal therapist, as i see it, is to seek ways to put the ego on the ropes so the neocortex can be deconstructed. those fake buddhists need it so badly so they can truly achieve inner peace as Siddharta Gautama himself taught. And that's love in essence.

  19. Grumpy: So the mention of the jewish subject has put you on the ropes…Good! There you have something to start working on. Are you maybe a hebrew yourself? Your ancestors? what are you trying to defend? I suggest you to take that emotion of disturbance to the limit and express it loudly. It could be the entrance to your well of sadness

  20. An email comment: "Very thought provoking post... and nightmares provoking too! But the next
    day I could finaly write something.

    I do mindfulness and I didn’t attend the course. Not formaly.

    The tyrany of the outside is continuing. Our inteligence has helped us to
    control ourselves when we were children and now we continue with
    self-observation. More control. For a moment I thougth of Freud and this
    mindfulness as a useful diagnostic tool. But then I realised that we
    can’t diagnose neurosis. It is undiagnosable because it is everywhere.

    ’Therapies’ are just another symptom. Our personal choice we use to
    deal with something we don’t know what it is. To comfort us.

    Just another symptom.... and it makes me sick.

    Thank you.

  21. Hi,

    I feel a bit Jewish. Several of my family look Israeli or Syrian and the older I get the more that side of me comes out.

    As a child I looked Arian. It's interesting how we change as we get older.

    Gods' chosen people eh? Shunned by everyone else, the scape-goat, unleavened bread, on the move, wanderer.

    If I were a rich man.

    Paul G.

  22. All this talk about mindfullness brings back bad memories of my meditation days. Maybe Dr Janov can give us an an anlysis of the typical "loving, kind and saintly" "spiritual" type person, as well as the pacifist mentality: you know, love your enemies, even Hitler should not have been opposed by force!Here`s one typical reaction of a Christian pacifist to Gadafi`s death:
    " I confess. I am an outlier.

    Whenever one of the world’s bad actors is killed – Saddam Hussein and his sons Uday and Qusay, Osama bin Laden, and now Muammar el-Qaddafi – I do not feel a sense of jubilation. I am sad. All of these men whose evil acts caused suffering beyond measure are still human beings who have families who will mourn their loss.

    When Uday and Qusay Hussein were killed during the Iraq War, I heard an American mother of a warrior fighting in Iraq say that she could not celebrate their deaths because she felt sympathy for their mother. This woman had lost two of her children that day. I am always sad when these monsters who made their mark on the world through violence dies because I remember that someone has lost h/er husband, father, brother, or son. I hope and pray that the violence that killed them does not lead to even more retaliatory violence.
    I am also sad because these human beings chose to become monsters. They chose to give up part of their own humanity by refusing to recognize and to honor the image of God reflected on the faces of the multitudes they murdered. And the blood and tears they unleashed returned to demand retribution, rising up from a bitter earth to demand repayment in the same currency of blood and tears. They chose to die rather than to submit to exile or to criminal prosecution.

    As a Christian, I am commanded to pray for my enemies, to love with a radical love. This includes the world’s bad actors, the human dictators who become crazed with deathly power and are deluded enough to think they can hold onto such power forever, that they will not reap what they have sown, that history will not remember or will excuse their brutality. When the Arab spring arrived at Libya’s doorstep, and the Libyan people demanded that Qaddafi relinquish power, I prayed that he would." (from the "Tikkun" website)

    How weird is that!


  23. Lasse: no, i'm not Jewish; thanks for the feedback, though; something to think (no, feel) about.

  24. Paul, to jump from one identity to the next, you would have to quickly reconfigure your beliefs every time you select a new identity. that would be quite a feat. maybe a psychotic could unknowingly develop that skill. it sounds far-fetched to me. i lived with a guy who told me he tried, briefly, to be two different people, and his attempt resulted in psychosis and hospitalisation.

  25. "Mindlessness" ... that's what I've been calling it, originally by way of "Freudian Slip", to the dismay of MindFULness advocates I know. I got it mixed up with the concept of "Sunyata", or emptying one's mind of all concerns and cravings. (And there's the dialectic again.) I learned the low-booga, secular version of the technique many years ago, and with its recent re-emergence with CBT's seal of approval, I returned to it as a form of quick, expedient repression. It's another case of a "helpful (under the right circumstances) but not curative" system . And after re-reading your remarks about suppressed Pain and catastrophic illness, I'm not completely sure about the "helpful" part any more.

    When I restarted mindfulness practice a couple years ago, I soon encountered my Primal Pain. During one session, I began to feel sick to my stomach, and a strong sense of impending doom followed quickly; in a few minutes, this turned into thoughts that life was worthless. It wasn't hard for me to see that the feeling started out as a thought-free physical sensation, became a deep emotional feeling of dread, and finally bloomed into full intellectualism. The sensations were so bad, they nearly overwhelmed me, but I was able to regain my composure within a few hours. But once again, there was no escaping Primal Pain; no matter what I have done, I have always run into it, like an invisible brick wall.

    I told my talk-therapist at our next session. She was also a mindfulness instructor, and was not pleased with my story. She claimed to have never heard of such a reaction, even though much has been written on the subject of bad reactions to meditation, or *kundalini crack-ups".

    I think that Mindfulness may be beneficial to someone who is stressed out and heading toward a heart attack or stroke in the near future. It is also helpful with here-and-now physical pain, which I also have from extensive ear damage. It can be a useful discipline for the scatter-brained; but there's no promise of cure, much less enlightenment. And, as you contend, deepening repression may lead to worse disease later on.

    Incidentally, in line with your observations on Jewish culture, there's a Yiddish word that describes the person who is lost to his or her thoughts -- a *luftmensch*. Literally, an "air-man".

  26. Another email comment: "Very thought provoking post... and nightmares provoking too! But the next
    day I could finaly write something.

    I do mindfulness and I didn’t attend the course. Not formaly.

    The tyrany of the outside is continuing. Our inteligence has helped us to
    control ourselves when we were children and now we continue with
    self-observation. More control. For a moment I thougth of Freud and this
    mindfulness as a useful diagnostic tool. But then I realised that we
    can’t diagnose neurosis. It is undiagnosable because it is everywhere.

    ’Therapies’ are just another symptom. Our personal choice we use to
    deal with something we don’t know what it is. To comfort us.

    Just another symptom.... and it makes me sick.

    Thank you.

  27. A fallacy of 'mindfulness' and other such "self" help strategies that occurs to me for the first time as I read your article, Art, is the presumption/implication that I can take care of or heal myself all on my own, all by myself, by what I do simply within my own mind, essentially without any help from or relationship with others. "If I just pay closer attention to myself, then I can better myself," such thinking thinks. But if I have gained and learned anything from my study and experience of Primal Therapy (and I have indeed gained and learned plenty!) it's that I need others to love and care for me, to make me who I am, and to help me recover and heal from the ways others did not love me as I needed. Since experiencing PT I have thrown out the old notion that "You have to love yourself before you can love others" because of how it implies that I can meet my need for love on my own, within myself. I now say that the best way I can "love myself" is by opening to and accepting the love of others, which in the first place means letting others know who I truly am, that is, what I truly feel, which is EXACTLY what Primal Therapy and Therapists have helped me do, both in therapy sessions, and in daily life. As some famous person once said, "It is not good for the human to be alone!"

  28. Hi. Very interesting exchanges here. I might have more to say after I carefully re-read some of these posts. In the meantime, I would like to post the lyrics of a Palestinian hip-hop group (RAM), lyrics that I came across in a book about the contemporary revolutions in the Middle East (the book is "Rock the Casbah, Rage and Rebellion in the Middle East" by Robin Wright) . Their Primal intuition struck me:

    " This is for the small kids in this big world,
    Lost, don't know what is happening.
    Barely opened your eyes , you saw tears
    Barely opened your heart you felt pain, Barely joined us you saw that we are sepaparated.
    Jews, Christians and Muslims,
    None of these sides wants to understand the other,
    Claiming that he's the only one going to heaven,
    Meanwhile making our lives hell.
    But you're different from us, your heart is still pure.
    So don't let our dirt touch it.
    Keep asking for a life full of equality.
    And if someone asked you to hate, say no.
    I am the child of today, the transformation of tomorrow. " (Lyrics from the hip-hop group DAM)


  29. Hi,

    I had a really good meditation in my car this afternoon, I had to, I was stuffed. But I noticed (this time) how the bliss state was really sitting on top of the bad feelings and almost made me more tired. Well actually it did make me more tired because, well, because of the pressure down?

    The TM lot did massive amounts of brain scan research back in the 70s & 80s. I've seen all the reports and read them all and heard all the lectures.

    Also I believe there are 27 main mantras prescribed for 9 sets of 3 different types. Kapha, Pitta, Vatta. The sound is attuned to the personality imbalance. Oops, I've just broken the secret code of confidentiality there!

    I hear that in America TM has been designated a cult not only because Maharishi is a figure of devotion but because each of the mantras also represents a deity. . . deity worship through one single revered individual???

    I would say it is worth comparing long term TM meditators against long term Primallers.

    But I know for sure that despite claims to the contrary TM does not protect you from cancer, MS and many other diseases.

    In the TM technique there are bouts of involuntary breath suspension (a bit like sleep apnea) followed by release of tension, deep breathing, comfort and up welling of bliss feelings.

    These are very similar to the bliss feelings after crying deeply with real grief. But now I've had many repetitions of the latter I have noticed the TM bliss is 'on top of' the trauma where-as the post Primal bliss seems to literally come out of it, (as Frank said, the feelings that should have been).

    The advanced technique (the Siddi Programme) involves extra mantras that eventually produce vigorous bouncing in the lotus position. . . smacks of holy rollers and controlled ab-reaction?

    Paul G.

  30. very spot on comment, Dan...and thanks to Paul for exposing the inner workings of TM...still i think there must be some value to meditation, as Bruce implies, to bring up feelings in the first place...great comments.

  31. My congratulations to the two-part comments via e-mail (above) that I think are from Bruce Wilson.They were a convincing well-written evaluation of meditation from a Primal viewpoint.

    If all this is true, I wonder if that accounts for the fact that so many "spiritual" people have such earnest beatific personas, which comes off as partly forced and fake to me; not to mention appropriate anger and raw sexuality are such no-nos for these saints. They try so hard to live up to an impossible image of humility, non-judgementalism, saintliness, and pacifism.I saw so many of this type in AA; now I avoid them because their unreality irritates me.

  32. Terrific post Art and some great replies. I'd like to ask you though what your thoughts are on binaural beat technology that is sold by many companies today as a means to fast meditation etc. It promises the world and more by all accounts. For example if you believed the marketing hype, binaural beats will give you the ability to increase your threshold for stress. . . increase your mental abilities, creativity, learning ability, focus and concentration and end anxiety, fear, anger, depression, sadness, and substance abuse etc and even promises that you will be happier, more peaceful and more compassionate, etc etc, all from listening to a CD!

    I assume this is just another form of mindfulness and meditation?

    Regards, and keep up the posting please.

  33. Steve: Hey I know nothing about it. There are hundreds of booga boogas out there but this week as guest science writer Bruce Wilson is publishing his take on meditation. art

  34. Taking a seminar in Mindfulness:

    In 2001 Kaiser Permanente CA was offering classes in Mindfulness. Believing I can learn something, I enrolled.

    After the second class I had these questions for the instructor: why should a victim be mindful, while its fellow citizens keep on ridiculing, blaming victims for their reaction; why is society not mindful toward victims?
    My last question was: how can a victim heal if they are not allowed to tell the truth and express their pain?
    The answer pointed again in the same direction: waking on eggshells, never confront the truth, don’t rock the boat, keep your feelings under control, be polite - in other words – never show emotions - swallow your pain.

    At this moment I walked out of the class steaming with anger over so much obliviousness and oppression of feelings.


  35. To Anonymous

    I also find in so many religious types the forced and faked personas, as well as their fear of what I call reasonable anger and raw sexuality as you put it. And I am persuaded by the Bible, no less. But I see it as you do. They expect too much and it is not justified by the Bible. They believe or seem to, that perfection is somehow attainable. It is not. But I do find them judgmental, unlike you. They judge harshly because of the expectations of perfection. And they can not be reasoned with and that is ironic since Jesus said, let your reasonableness be known to all men. If they slap one cheek, turn the other to them to slap as well.

    But I am not bothered by pacifism. In fact, I find many of them in full support of war, which I do not understand because of the Bible insisting that the devil rules the world for which they gladly lend in a hand in fighting for.

    Sad, but too many people have too little compassion for the human condition. It is easier to throw stones than to put ones self in another’s shoes. And we humans love to take the easy way out! Some things never change.

  36. Hi,
    -"If all this is true, I wonder if that accounts for the fact that so many "spiritual" people have such earnest beatific personas, which comes off as partly forced and fake to me; not to mention appropriate anger and raw sexuality are such no-nos for these saints. They try so hard to live up to an impossible image of humility, non-judgementalism, saintliness, and pacifism".

    'Unctuous' is a word I have heard to describe this particular affect. I have seen solicitors, barristers, doctors, professors, architects and (most of all) psychotherapists and psychologists and psychoanalysts, and university professors express various shades of UNCTION. . .

    Unction without a 'J' is a dis-connect.

    Paul G.

  37. To Paul

    You nailed it! Unction is a very good description. A disconnect. But if one were to look at or analyze their own views and conduct, surely they could see contradictions. But they avoid analysis for that deep 1st/2nd level that so quickly defends the ego, rises to block the brain from any analysis that might harm that fragile inflated ego (self image), which is often make to defend and protect due to pain that said they were worthless or similar.

    But some rare few will be willing to take that bullet, and swallow that poison, that bitter pill that tastes so bad in the mouth, and face the inconsistencies in their words or actions.

    this is why I argue Art that the cortex intellect is not the source of repression. It is the stem who controls the cortex at all times and directs the cortex. Instinctive reactions need to be very fast and the stem is up to that. the Cortex takes too long. the stem is like a Star Trek Deflector Shield that is always on, ready to repel or run in less than a second. We might call it an auto-alert defense.

    My opinion, for what its worth. You won't get much for it on the street I hear. But that hardly concerns me. As long as I like what I do, I am fine ;-)

  38. On Yahoo News

    Well, Yahoo decided to do an honesty job. What a break for PT and Art. But the gist of this info was out in 86 with Imprints. Love to know what took them so long to say something. It was funny that either last night or the night before that I was thinking about the direction of how babies are affected from conception on and why this ought to be very relevant. I think this was and is a very good direction. I thought Biology of Love was a very good direction. Primal Healing was, for me, a drag. It just wasn’t hitting the target. Its hit now!

    A shame that yet another man had to die to help get it in the news. Ain’t that the way it always is, huh? Long live JFK, RFK, MLK and JFK Jr, while we are at it.

    I hope this goes on to produce some results and attention. The evidence has always been there in many places, but no one wanted to admit it or draw attention to it. Lets keep our fingers crossed. Art, can’t ya talk a few more celebrities into PT? Offer free therapy to them? Just a thought ;-)

  39. Hi again Apollo: I am the one who signed in as Anonymous above (usually I sign my name). I think we understand each other about "spiritual" people. However I don't understand when you write that you are persuaded "by the Bible". What parts of the Bible? The Bible is a colection of disparate writings, some contradictory, many very humane, some outright fascist and murderous.Also I appreciated your reference to JFK, RFK, MLK. Although I have my differences with JFK (not radical enough), MLK (too pacifistic), I am a big fan of Robert Kennedy (his writings and speeches are so deep , humane, and moving). And if one is on the Left, few people ever refer to this great compassionate man. That contributes to the isolation I feel , and to which I refer to in my comments after France Janov 's blog.


  40. Hi,

    -"Paul, to jump from one identity to the next, you would have to quickly reconfigure your beliefs every time you select a new identity. that would be quite a feat. maybe a psychotic could unknowingly develop that skill. it sounds far-fetched to me. i lived with a guy who told me he tried, briefly, to be two different people, and his attempt resulted in psychosis and hospitalisation".

    Hi, well I agree (which is what I was trying to say) but some people have learned to 're-configure' or 'confabulate' (re-frame?) as a defence against their own emotional disconnect.

    It's hard to give an example but I suppose to conjecture: if as a little one I am consistently frozen out as a form of punishment for reaching out and taking my needs I might eventually walk around with my hands pinned to my sides, fearful of ever "getting".

    A psychological 'manoeuvre' in my thinking and talking brain might also teach me to get what I want by 'alternative means'. I mean, I know I am going to get frozen out if I just come out and ask for my needs to be met so instead I'll work out a parabolic trajectory in my head.

    Some parents call this lying or manipulating (when actually manipulating really means something completely different anyway). . . but actually it's all about getting unmet needs satisfied.

    Often the said manoeuvre is after the event, ie: the manoeuvring becomes a justification for getting needs met in the face of external non-forth-coming-ness.

    I suppose if there is also 1st line terror driving upward then the whole 'racket' can become part of a self defeating act out.

    An example would be to say "yes", then go along with the wishes of others (maybe originating in unresolved sibling pressure) but all the time wanting something else (or feeling that you want something else). . . so, in a self defeating way producing sabotage of the agreement, an apparent 'U turn' followed quickly with a 3rd line denial of the history of the transaction. Or, a re-confabulation, a re-framing of the past event.

    If the pressure of unmet need is strong enough (with the disconnected and un-felt pain still un-addressed) then the whole thing starts to look like two or more distinctly dis-connected personalities working against each other in the same individual.

    It takes a leap of understanding to perceive that what is disconnected is the feeling. What is split off in the poor individual in question is the traumatic register. The 'fixation' to re-frame, re-confabulate and re-write history (the false self carried in the 3rd line) also becomes the defence against realising that it is oneself who is in Pain and wanting and needing.

    I think this is what Art meant when he said that in 50yrs of practice he had never seen this 'multiple personality disorder' and that actually it is all about split off feelings and the defence of the false self elected to live without true feelings.

    It is also true that when observing the contradictions in others (in the light of Primal Theory) one can arrive at an understanding of other people and at least think compassionately about them even if you still feel like strangling them for their caprice!

    Paul G.

  41. An email comment: "Hi Dr. Janov,

    I've been reading your blog entries for a while. I enjoy your material.

    Regarding mindfulness therapy. Since this type of therapy has scientific evidence of physiological changes, such as lowered blood pressure and higher immune system marker, and you claim to have the same type of evidence (and claim to be the only psychotherapy that has physiological evidence), what is the difference?

    How, on what objective evidence, can you demonstrate that your "scientific evidence" of true physiological changes is superior or valid over the "scientific evidence" of the mindfulness advocates?

    Thank you."

  42. And my answer: The difference is you can work on one aspect, blood pressure, for example, and produce changes even for a short time, but to change the person organically is what we do and that alters all kinds of processes in the system. Listen, if you do not deny memory the its imprint you know that you cannot make profound change without address those memories. art

  43. Hi,

    -"How, on what objective evidence, can you demonstrate that your "scientific evidence" of true physiological changes is superior or valid over the "scientific evidence" of the mindfulness advocates"?

    In my humble opinion this is a leading question that will probably only result in more 'doubt' and the continuing need for more rational 3rd line evidence. This question smells to me like the 3rd line trying to make the 2nd and 1st lines redundant (yet again).

    I've read several other different theories on how by strict behavioural discipline (including meditation) neural pathways that are deliberately not used die out and how new neural pathways (based on new beliefs) can grow to replace them (so-say) but this will not rid the system of cellular epigenetic memory that leads to serious disease and early death, probably horribly. There is so much evidence for various different theories about brain function and modification that one could spend an entire lifetime debating it all. Some do.

    Well done Art for not bothering to don the media or preach too hard to the emotionally deaf & blind. It's a blind alley. A red herring.

    I did TM for many years but it did not protect me from a breakdown and it hasn't protected others from serious disease. TM did not lead me to my true feelings either. . . Actually I am sure it put a cap on them.

    Having started to touch my true feelings (repressed in me for so long) I know for sure that the bliss and relaxation comes out of that re-living. The bliss and relaxation of TM sits on top of the pain but you wouldn't know it unless you gave up TM and started looking for your true feelings. They were always there in me, waiting for a time and place to truly be re-discovered.

    I am the evidence.

    I used to believe that a strict behavioural regimen (actually an unattainable fantasy obsession based on trying so hard to re-enact out my excessively disciplined boarding school incarceration) would 'heal me'. All it did was make me feel guilty and inferior for not being able to attain such perfection. Those who do manage such 'apparent' healing are deceiving themselves, as was I. Worse, those who purport such 'shallow' but 'heroic' stuffing down of the emotional truth perpetuate an endlessly unattainable TOTEM of Goodness & Light and it is all a sham.

    If there is a God or Universal Intelligence He, She or It would not condone repression and heroic suppression of need and pain. On the contrary God may not reveal herself until we do unlock it all.

    Ok, sometimes we do need to suppress our rage and re-actions. Was TM good for that? Not really, my conscience was though.

    On balance the court's out on whether learning to meditate was worth it for me. Mostly the whole process fed my self deception and denial. Now I'm 52 and no better off than when I was 12. 40 years has passed and I'm still f****d up.

    The only thing that helps me feel better is lying down and crying. I don't feel guilty about that any more either, despite some peoples' revulsion.

    Paul G.

  44. "We don’t need a handle; we need our feelings. He thinks we can use awareness to help bring the two hemispheres together. Awareness is what separates them. Awareness came along millions of years after feelings."

    The ironic thing is that with all the neuroscience on (mindfulness) meditation, not enough attention is paid to this proposed order of evolution. It's that affect is the ultimate interrupter, when we can just as easily view cognition (mindfulness being one form) as meddling with the evolutionary wisdom of affect.

  45. Melissa Karnaze,

    MK: “not enough attention is paid to this proposed order of evolution.”
    “we can just as easily view cognition (mindfulness being one form) as meddling with the evolutionary wisdom of affect.”

    So if I understand correctly, thinking and analyzing are “meddling” with evolution or its order? Other than that, then I guess it is suggested that thinking and analyzing have no real benefit to offer. They are just meddling. I don’t want to put words in your mouth but you words seem to speak volumes.


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.