Monday, December 26, 2011

On the Right and Left Brain. There Is No Cure Without Their Unity. (Part 2/10)


It is the left that is the thinker and the believer. It is the cognitive side, devoid of affect. This analyzing but unfeeling hemisphere seeks out single solutions for complex problems; its focus is narrow and superficial especially in my field. It believes what it is told and obeys readily.

One job of the left brain is to re-represent a feeling higher up in the nervous system.  It helps symbolize the feeling as the conceptual brain comes online.  And we can use that symbol (“he is suffocating me”) to gain access to the right unconscious (real early suffocation). We rely on evolution, understanding how early lower levels of consciousness move upward and forward pushing the next higher level into action.  And in those high level actions there are imbricated the lower level imprints—in this case, real suffocation. So we do not have to guess what is there. The nervous system seems to join similar feelings, seamlessly, into its nerve bundles, classifying them as a single category for storage.  Therefore, we know that below the symbol lies the feeling, and we are rarely disappointed.  We in our feeling therapy never try to change the re-representation/symbol/left-brain alterations of the feeling, (you suffocate me), we only use it to open the door to the imprint, to history. Trying to convince the person that he is wrong in his belief that his wife is suffocating him, is ripping out the belief from its proper context and destroying the organicity of the experience. “OK. I now understand what you mean, doctor, and I see that is not what she is doing.”  It is not her; it is his past that forced the belief.  It comes not from outside but from inside.  If we have no access to that inside we will mistakenly think it is simply her erroneous idea. Again, the belief was given birth by the feeling.  The feeling on the right holds it in place.

I hesitate to say this but the left brain when left to is own devices and not softened by the right, is a tyrant, an unfeeling fascist who can do harm.  Look at it in social terms; every fascist state denies the needs of its people and suppresses them when they show their face. So needs are not fulfilled and indeed are punished when they want fulfillment.  The State is not democratic until acknowledges needs.  We are not normal until needs are either fulfilled or felt; until the right brain sees the light of day.

The left brain is the symbolic self; it rises last out of evolution. It has the job of translating feelings from the past into current notions and beliefs, and helps us live in the present. Strange, because it does not speak the language of the right but it can translate it into its own verbal language. Clearly the right does not speak English but it speaks in its own way.  Isn’t that odd?  The left (say, in psychotherapy) tries to put words onto something that has no words; it is speaking the wrong language but is doing the best it can. Its language is numbers and statistics, after all. It is in theory and beliefs; that is why left brainers love theories and hypotheses.  And they stick by them no matter what the reality.  So they use the theory to interpret the patient’s words and cannot learn anything new that might contradict the theory.

You cannot get a doctor’s degree in my field without quoting a bunch of numbers. The only proof a student can proffer to get a diploma is statistics.  And voila, there is the sought-after diploma, at last.  But what happened? On the way the left crushed the right forevermore, never to be returned to is proper place.  And they give the student the diploma with the right brain attached in case he may need it in the future.  Alas, he doesn’t; I mean, he does, but he can’t find it.  He lost it in the seven years of desiccated, disembodied, devitalized and etiolated study.

You see the problem we have had in psychotherapy? Left brain doctors adopting left brain therapies and getting left brain answers for their results.  They publish in left brain journals for left brain scientists. Perfect.  It reinforces itself and reifies the results in a closed circle of reason.  Then a lonely right brainer comes along and says, “Hey I have a new idea.”  No one wants to hear it.  They are busy perfecting the minutia of their theory.  They have a very good rationale for what they are doing.

We do need the left side for science and the right side for feelings but never one or the other. And if we have to make a critique of any other therapy it is because it skews to one side or the other.  The right brainers get involved in airy-fairy approaches with little science behind them, (feelings and imagination from the right run wild), while the left brain maintains a narrow focus not seeing the implications nor totality of the event.  We need both; left and right working together, good imagination and feelings even beyond the facts, and facts that place feelings and imagination within the constraint of science.

The problem we have in our profession of mental health is that those early experiences lie on the right and do not tell their secrets to the left. That is one reason it remains unconscious.  The experience has no words nor scenes to help us know and remember them.  After all, life in the womb is wordless and bereft of scenes. Here lies the problem. Ina verbal, intellectual therapy we are trying to learn about the unconscious with a language that is on the left.  It’s watching the game from the far-away left bleachers and understands nothing.  The right is trying to inform it with its anxiety, obsessions and depressions but  the left can’t hear it.  The right has the key responsibility for integration of the two sides, but it cannot do it alone; and too often the left is not interested.  It has its modus operandi and does not want to be bothered. It never wants to get too emotional.  It cries a few tears and believes that is the extent of human emotion. It is not.  Clearly, the right is more “human.”  It cares about the living and it cares about feeling.

As we mature, the left comes on line, and the right is relieved because it can “dump” some of its load onto the left. What it dumps is the energy and force of the feelings and imprints; not the content.  The left hemisphere is like a shadow of the right, only vaguely aware of what the real feeling is. Yet in a vague way it understands a bit. The left is always looking through a screen trying to figure out what the real feeling is. So the person feels depressed but doesn’t know about the deep and early hopelessness and helplessness imprinted there.  Then we have a doctor who labels it depression, when that is not the feeling at all. It is a left brain tag from the left field stands describing what may be wrong.  Diagnosis is a label not a dynamic description.  The left will try to make the emotional information rational, as best it can.  When that load is too heavy with right side profound hopelessness, the left side can be overwhelmed.  There is then a profound weltschmerz that overcomes the left, as well. And the patient just feels down.  The doctor says, “You are depressed.”  The patient says, “thank you,” and now what?  How do we treat depression when we do not know what it is?  The labels don’t tell us much but feelings do.  Labels and diagnoses are left brain and can only approximate the right.  When the patient plunges into right brain deep hopelessness the depression begins to lift and we have learned something.

So the poor left side, that aloof insensitive guy in our head senses depression and struggles to make sense of what is going on inside. Confusion reigns. (Unfortunately, only the right orbitofrontal cortex, around the eyes, can look back into our history and suss out our old feelings.

As the load of pain increases the left is obligated to fabricate paranoia or fantasy of some kind, “They are after me and want to kill me.”  Or it can adopt booga booga, far-out, spacey ideas that are beyond reality.  We might call those ideas “crazy,” but it is only the left trying to accommodate the pressure from the right; to encircle and bind the terrible force, and to make it rational. The left is trying to fabricate a rationale for the feeling without knowing exactly what the feeling is; a strange paradox. But if we asked the person who was rationalizing what was the feeling behind it all he would have no idea. It all remains unconscious because of the lack of connection. We see this in the political sphere where groups want more and more arms because they feel unsafe.  They concoct an enemy that we must arm against.  They will never feel safe because “unsafe” is an imprint, an imprint that forces the left to find a rationale--an enemy. Yet they will only feel safe, ultimately, when they have gone back to feel "unsafe" in its original context.

One would think that the right simply dumps what it can to the left and that is the end of it.  But no.  There are filters that scramble the message so that only a bit of the memory/feeling gets through.  The left must guess what the feeling is, and it manufactures ideation to cover it. To produce the message and its comprehension we must address the brain that is holding the old, old secrets, and we cannot do that with the left brain; that means we cannot use the intellect to accomplish the task.   We must seduce the right brain to give up its pain, and it does so reluctantly—and slowly, and methodically and ever-so hesitantly.  It is not in a rush to feel pain but it will do so if it is not thrust into it abruptly.  Gently, gently is the watchword. The left must relinquish its hold, as well. And we must use the language of the right; simple sentences, a light tone, unforced cadence and mostly non-verbal cues; a touch here a nod of the head there.  If you want to talk big words and long sentences go to the left and ruin the session. And above all, do not use abstractions that the left side loves because that throws the patient into the wrong brain and stops feelings in their tracks.  We use her body language to tell us where to go; a cough, a tear, a tension all speak volumes and talk to us explicitly.   When we feel someone is hurting, a little hug will bring forth the tears, whereas a lengthy discussion or positive cheerleading won’t.  It is only what we do in therapy but it takes years to learn it.

Now we see why the ideas we manufacture are so unchanging; they are defending against a deep unconscious feeling that is not changing.  And we/the left don’t know about this. I find this incredible that we have feelings on one side that are not recognized on the other. Alas, that is the human condition.  It makes us eat chocolate and drink vodka and yet it is as if that side belonged to someone else; I guess in a way it does. What happens is that the left side takes the leitmotif of the right-side feeling and gives it structure. The right cannot do that; structure is not what it is about.

So we have a danger (of the feeling—lack of oxygen at birth or lack of love)which forces the manufacture of an enemy. And now the left does what it can to protect itself against that enemy. In extreme psychosis one puts foil covers on the head to stop the aliens from getting in.

It is pretty much the same in all cases. For example depression, which most often has at its base deep hopelessness.  Until the person feels fully that hopelessness, in context, the tendency to depression will stay.  And it stays a threat for a lifetime.  Where does the feeling come from?  Many places and many different times; perhaps at birth being impeded from coming out into life or being strangling by the cord; whatever engenders hopelessness—insuperable odds. This may be compounded later with feeling unloved with no chance at love by two statues (parents) incapable of love, compounded again by a husband later on who is cold and indifferent.  All this exacerbates the feeling of hopelessness. So, depression is not a feeling; it is the result of feeling, the suppression of it. The left side is often playing whack-a-mole; knocking down any sign of that hopelessness as soon as it shows its face. The person, driven by right, obliges the left brain to stuff itself with pain-killers without even knowing that there is pain.  And if the left knows there is pain inside it rarely knows what it is.  That is because the right is protecting the left from too much information--pain. The right is both a friend and an enemy. Choose your weapons; you cannot have both.  When you feel fully you have only a great friend who liberates you.

The left brain loves categories which is why the new psychiatric diagnostic manual is as thick as the Manhattan phone book.  Each new behavior has a category, so instead of seeing how feeling underlies it all, the experts, under the emprise /hold of the Behaviorists decide to concentrate on diagnostic categories, as if that can really helps or makes a difference in therapy.  So now they want to include forgiveness and also gratitude as categories; the only thing left out is sneezing but it won’t be long.  The truth is when my patients begin a certain kind of deep cough they are usually into something from deep in the neuraxis and it is truly diagnostic; so you see coughing is a diagnosis.  Why list each behavior in lieu of the motivation/feeling behind it?  Because feeling has been left out of the mix.  So those left brainers are building one by one several thousand diagnostic categories and they do it because the insurance companies require it for payment.  Nothing to do with science; nothing to do with the brain or psychology or people’s suffering; more to do with finance and economics.  Categories are not people; they are things, inhuman, devoid of humanity and suffering.  Doesn’t that fit nicely with giant insurance corporations? And isn’t that perfect for the left brain?

The left adores vocabulary.  Big words to confuse and obfuscate(oops)meaning.  We then have to wade through the verbiage to see if we can understand it. Again, feelings lead to simple language; the more abstracted we are the bigger and more complicated the words.  And that is why when we professionals read textbooks or scientific reports they are almost indecipherable.  But if you want another professional to respect you, you need this kind of vocabulary.

If we meet someone who is inflexible we have a left-brainer. If one is thinking about divorce because the wife is so rigid, think about a therapy that will help her join with the flexible, creative side.

The left side has a certain arrogance to it; it can’t be wrong---at least until it is humbled by the right side truths that show it reality.  Meanwhile, the left side is that of defense, “I am not wrong. You (or the devil) made me do it.”  The left-brainer cannot accept emotional reality until he checks statistics to be sure; to have his unreality verified. The left side, in short, doesn't easily adapt to new ways of doing things. It is obdurate and unyielding.  The left-brain doctor thinks she can cure addiction without acknowledging the right.  She focuses on the addict’s bad ideas and compelling behavior.  But neglects where the feelings lie.  The left does not like to hear emotional truths, therapist or addict. It is an unconscious conspiracy of two. But when the load is so great on the right there is a burst-through of pain, and the left can no longer function well, drastic measures are required. “Burst-through" means from right to left; the right is now a gate-crasher. It has to get out no matter what. It needs freedom from constraint, a constraint that may have begun during the birth process where egress out of the womb was blocked.  

The left side is the “aware” side, (of full conscious/awareness), and when the depths of emotional pain surges forward the person is suddenly aware of what is down there. But the left side often flees from that knowledge. It is a very reluctant customer, and accepts ideas most skeptically.

The problem is that those early traumatic experiences lie on the right and do not tell its secrets to the left. Worse, the left side is largely indifferent to it throughout life. The left wasn’t even “alive” when all the sturm um drang took place.  That is one reason it is unconscious. And why we do not know about it.  The left hemisphere has its modus operandi and does not want to be bothered. Its focus is outside. It never wants to get too emotional; in fact, it can’t. There is insufficient emotional equipment on the left.  So the person has mastered economics and knows nothing of the body she carries around all of the time.

Too often the left won’t help out with feelings, and indeed, runs from the right and its contents.  The left senses danger.  While the left brain is telling her analytic/cognitive therapist, “My parents could not show their feelings but I knew what they meant and I forgive them for it,” the right brain is screaming to her feeling therapist, “Hold me. Touch me!  Love me just a little.”  And that need/feeling is burrowing away in our unconscious stealthily doing its damage, weakening the heart, raising blood pressure and going about the job of killing us because the left brain refuses to acknowledge the need.  Not only “refuses” but aids and abets suppressing the need and keeping it out of contact with our left side thinking, comprehending selves.

The left is often fear-ridden, jumpy and startled, with good reason because when the imprint rises from the depths the person can begin to feel terror, not a pleasant experience.  The right side is literally strangling while the left side senses panic. Think of this because I cannot get over how bizarre it is. The right side is holding the actual memory and its sensation/feeling of strangling, while the left side is screaming at her husband, “You leave me no room to breathe.”  When the right moves toward conscious/awareness that actual sensation starts to become conscious (always think conscious=right intrusion; the transformation of the left from simply “aware” to conscious).  But when we insert tranquilizers into her system she will stop yelling, “You leave me no room to breathe.”  Because we have further stuffed that feeling deeper into the unconscious so that for the moment it no longer drives the left side to yell about strangling and no breathing room.   The closer the right moves to the left the more impelling the  behavior.  When the right moves all the way over into the left we have a primal. For that we need help because the defense system usually won’t allow it.  It is only when the defense system has already opened and the right has broken through that we suffer and become partially aware of it.

When there is a strong right-left defense system, with the person heavily on the left, his interest for a lifetime will be business, science and external symbolic focus (like money and scientific facts).  The arts are over on the right; which is why the artist often suffers and takes drugs. He is living inside the pain; the good part is that he is also on the side of creativity.

If one is to be liberated from the unconscious we have to suffer again, as unfair as that seems.  The pain has to surface so it can be connected. The right has to cross over into the left; no cure without that.  Remember, when all those different approaches out there discuss making us conscious, we need to know what and where the unconscious lies and what it takes to make it conscious.  The left almost never has a clue.  The right does. It never tells us the reason but we can feel it. The left knows the reason after connection because the feeling is there. The right is ready to connect when the left is.  When that connection happens we can finally experience joy.  The right has met its soul-mate and what a relief!  We are connected, integrated.  But wait, there is more; much more to this story.  Let’s look some more at the left hemisphere.

The left loves the mechanical.  It works point by point in meticulous fashion.  It is the left side that is cognitive and helps form belief systems. Its focus is narrow and channeled. It does great brain surgery, but as I noted, don’t ask it to do a riff in a jazz piece. It can read the notes but cannot feel the music.

The left often thinks it feels but it only thinks it.  It cannot feel it until it feels, as simplistic as that sounds.  It is basically detached from feelings and is devoid of emotion. The left loves numbers, statistics and categories, and the so-called  “objective facts.” It is the hemisphere of abstraction, of shredding the emotions out of emotional events and human interaction.  Think here of cognitive therapy; it shreds the last ounce of feeling from psychologic observation so that we are left with dry facts.

I note that one of the key functions of the left is to suppress feeling.  When the right feeling threatens to become conscious the left rushes in to shut it down; it orders the gates into action. The prefrontal cortex moves against the rising feeling on the deeper right and we remain unfeeling, which is one way we block bad feeling—numbed out. The left makes sure that there is an infusion of serotonin and other inhibitory chemicals (GABA and other repressors) to bolster gating against the right.

It is the left that forgives, blames, regrets, is ashamed, shows gratitude, remorse and appreciation; all of which are not necessarily feelings but looks like them, and can be faked.  And if in a criminal proceeding you do not show remorse and say how sorry you were to kill that girl you will not get a reduced sentence.  But if you can fake sincerity you will get off sooner.  Why?  Words, words, words. If we cannot feel we must take your word for it. If we can feel we can suss out the feeling in your words.  If there is any.

The left side can manufacture all sorts of rationales to explain why there is and was no love or why I was not wrong and you are.  It is expert at defending, while the right succumbs to these left-side rationales, and burrows itself more deeply into the physical system.  We do need the left side for science and the right side for feeling.

So now we can understand such symptoms such as obsessions.  Obsessions are not just thoughts; they arise out of obsessive feelings which drive them. They are in evolutionary order; feelings at the beginning followed by thoughts and beliefs.  One may try doorknobs ten times a day to get over the fear of something being there, i,e,. bugs. The right feels very unsafe, perhaps in the womb with a very highly strung, anxious mother.  Later on, years later, the left tries to keep the imprinted unsafe feeling in bounds by checking the gas jet twenty times.  What is diabolic is that the obsessive rarely if ever knows what lies in the right brain that makes her do it. So isn’t it obvious that when the two sides connect it means the end of all that?


  1. Hi,

    When I was a child I was put under tremendous pressure to bury my feelings at the boarding school gates. I was punished for crying and for decades after, even though it has always been obvious I am a very emotional and artistic person this side of me has struggled to get the acknowledgement I need to be a successful person in life.

    A battle has raged inside me and repeatedly society, friends (so called), family & lovers (the worst friends of all can be lovers for what I am about to say) have put everything into a left brain framework so that every escape attempt I made resulted in yet another wall of repression to break through.

    It's strange how even other 'creative types' collude to suppress true feelings. All the time feelings get re-packaged in a way that prevents others, friends, family from resonating with what has been inside me.

    Yes, resonating inside me, nobody wants to know because inside them there is a well of pain too and they also are holding it all down.

    This is such an English thing too. English culture prides itself on the eccentric and strange creativity of the repressed. Don't let the lid off or you may loose your creative expression. So there is an almost total human collusion to keep the painful past buried. Either it is not there at all, ie: it is all in the past therefore does not exist now, so pull your socks together, or put the neurosis on a pedestal and call it art when really it is so much a symbolic act out by the artist and we all stand around pouring from the empty into the void "discussing" the motivations of the artist as if that was even what the artist wanted.
    Apparently Henry Moore was separated from his mother, it shows in his sculptures but so what? So was I separated from my mother and it hurts, I would rather just cry the pain out than elevate some distorted expression of it into some symbolic principle of artistic expression.

    For me at the moment I have a meeting of the two halves in the traditional carpentry I do, sometimes my tears stain the oak as much as the raindrops that fall through the leaks in the farm shed roof I work in.

    Paul G.

  2. "It is only what we do in therapy but it takes years to learn it" so lovely, learning to become human again..

    I grew up w/an xtreme right-brained Mother, and an xtreme left-brained Father (an artist, an accountant..) They are no longer together, lol

    Interesting, your comments on "forgives, blames, regrets, is ashamed, shows gratitude, remorse and appreciation; all of which are not necessarily feelings but looks like them and can be faked". In my work w/offenders (domestic violence) these *are* largely considered feelings, and as you say, a (court) sentence will often be imposed/longer if s/one cannot show them. However, I believe my sincerity detector is very good..

    Art, I think you could write more on *why* the lack of connection btwn right-left exists-- defense, perhaps you are going to with the next installments (corpus callosum?). I think it would just help people to take it back to why we defend in the first place-- to protect ourselves, to survive (and the irony of this!)

  3. An email comment: "Hi Art,

    With your new Reflections “On the Right and Left Brain. There Is No Cure Without Their Unity”, you eliminate the last of my inhibitions against the established psychotherapeutic categorization model. It is filling me with a need to re-write and describe how I struggled with my emotions in my right brain and with my knowledge building, including languages in my left cognitive brain. Suddenly, I understand and feel the development and the change I have experienced during more than 70 years.
    I love your language, and I steal indiscriminately your expressions. This leads to new ideas and connections in my experiences and the neurosis I developed in five different languages until I eventually reached a non-verbal communication with the memories in my right brain...

  4. Jacquie: It may be in the rest of the articles. Let me know if it is not. Art.

  5. I've had the coughing. Such coughing so much so that I thought I would turn inside out. I had tons of it a few years ago before I started to realise what had happened to me as a kid (and I am sure at birth and before). I have also experienced the very deep breathing you have mentioned in your books before, following a deep insight. Almost as though I had come up for air for the first time. Felt incredible. I can appreciate that bursting through of so much pain. It's like a damn bursting. Eventually one runs out of fingers to put in the holes and the water is leaking out until huge cracks appear. Paul talks about Henry Moore being seperated from his Mother and Paul just wanting to feel. I get that totally. There is a new bridge which has been built between St Pauls and Tate Modern in London and it seems to me that this is linking two symbols of different times in our Society. The delusion of God and the suppossed expression of true feelings via art. Alice Miller did a lot of painting to help her discover her early childhood and it is perhaps there for many artists to see if they could. However my experience of many designers and artists is that they hate their feelings and fight hard to damn them up and woe betide anyone who actually brings up the subject of real feelings. If you look at Henry Moore's Sculptures you will see that in many the Mother is looking elsewhere rather than into the child's Eye's. John Bolwby would probably have a great deal to say about this. Many great Painters such as Picasso and Bacon used to paint through the night. I have wondered whether this is because perhaps they were left to cry out and therefore the pain they felt then is nearer the surface during the night as adults and so unable to sleep they blindly paint their unmet needs. Even Picasso's paintings have women looking elsewhere (in broken and disjointed forms)(and often with a tear in their eye) and he did say his real desire was to paint like a child thus perhaps trying to get back to his childhood and understand the pain his left brain refused to feel perhaps. Bacon's amorphous shifting human shapes perhaps suggest his own shifting and amorphous sense of self caused perhaps by amongst other things a depressed and unloving Mother unable to mirror the child's forming sense of self.

  6. art, current evidence, and common sense, shows us that each half of the brain is responsible for both thinking and feeling. the entire human body, including the brain, is essentially symmetric in form and function. the difference in function between the two brain hemispheres is a matter of predominance, and cannot be clearly defined. when one half of the brain is removed, the remaining half tries to take care of all the usual functions. the resulting symptoms don't provide clear evidence of functional asymmetry.
    there is an old theory that states the left brain is responsible for positive emotions, and the right is responsible for negative emotions. your left-and-right theory could explain this if the so-called positive emotions were merely an absence of negative emotions (caused by positive thoughts).
    but there is no clear evidence to suggest the left orbitofrontal cortex is intellectual and the right is creative, and the deeper right is emotional. these distinctions have become popular in psychology but according to neurologists they are simplistic exaggerations. studies often provide contradictory evidence. but there is plenty of clear evidence that shows the neo-cortex, as a whole, is a problem solver, the limbic system is emotional, and the brain stem is basic sensation, and feelings do not become conscious until there is connection from bottom to top. no argument there.
    so why do you bother with a left-and-right theory? your theory would be clean and simple and more credible if you based it on vertical connection....forget about horizontal. we don't understand horizontal. not yet.
    instead of referring to the "left-brainer" and "right-brainer" you could refer to the "shallow-brainer" and the "deep-brainer". we are not looking for left and right connection; we are looking for top and bottom connection. and we are not looking for top and bottom diagonal connection either. there is no evidence to support that as far as i can see (i didn't look very hard). if you don't want the shallow-brainers to get annoyed, perhaps you should keep it simple.
    the unconscious deep-brainer has an underdeveloped neo-cortex. he is effectively living in a bad dream. but he is capable of processing nuances better than the intellectual, unconscious shallow-brainer.
    full consciousness is achieved via bottom to top connection. what's wrong with this simplified theory? it works in relation to your therapy doesn't it? none of your therapeutic techniques are specifically based on left-and-right theory. it's all top to bottom isn't it?

  7. Quote: "And that is why when we professionals read textbooks or scientific reports they are almost indecipherable. But if you want another professional to respect you, you need this kind of vocabulary."

    Exactly! But what it does is isolate the outsider from the territory. Here is a better rule for the scientific community: Only use a "big" word (that kind that only 1% of the population understand) if you specifically need to, to communicate what you're after in the right way. Otherwise you're just making a dick of yourself. That's my view, anyway.

    What's more, it take more brains and skill to be effective with the words that are commonly known (only) than just building up a high volume vocab. Quality before quantity.

  8. Richard: But you know that in reality it is not just bottom to top; it is right to left. So I cannot ignore science and get on with it. I need to stay close to new research. It is not for the convenience of my therapy; it is for science, writ large. art

  9. Off Topic: Political relevance of Primal Theory:

    I was looking the other day at a video-speech of a guy talking about freedom and pushing for the preservation of the American constitution, etc. That is, the patriot stuff...

    I think what PT shows us is that the greater issue is not ideologies of pure freedom (which is a functional impossibility anyway for groups that must get along and survive), but Humanity.
    Because it doesn't matter how much you try to politically institute freedom; the inhumane, in time, will drive bulldozers over what people value, and the power of formal instituted structures will always be impotent in the end.
    The primary focus for a truly 'good' government can't be freedom as such, but humanity. Making sure we get good, non-deprived, non-psychopathic people in power must be the key goal. Anything less will not work - it will only break down.

    Indirectly at least, I think this is one of the messages/discoveries of your findings, Art, because you clarify the structure of human motivation and thinking and beliefs etc. Once someone is neurotic they can preach freedom until they are blue in the face and yet, unwittingly to themselves, completely contradict themselves in action. Who we are (and aren't) in our hearts is where the real deal begins.

    BTW: May I suggest you make the rule that everyone titles the content/description of their posts so readers can choose whether or not they're interested in reading it. Just efficiency thing?

  10. here's some interesting points...
    scientists believe there is a fundamental difference between the left and right brain and it exists in all vertebrates. the left is responsible for routine behaviour and the right is for emergencies. cats often groom themselves when they are anxious. perhaps they are using the left brain to suppress the anxiety.
    scientists believe human right-handedness is the natural result of a highly evolved left brain. they say left-handedness is not normal. well maybe they are right; i am primarily left-handed (writing and sketching) but i am right-handed for everything else (knife and fork, scissors etc). my mother says i didn't talk until very late in my infanthood. she says i never spoke a single word until one day, almost immediately, i started speaking in complete sentences. perhaps i didn't use my left brain properly.
    another interesting thing (about me of course): at art school we were given a project in which we had to sketch with the wrong hand to create an interesting new style. most people were laughing and talking about how awkward it was, but i didn't find it awkward at all, and my drawing style didn't change.
    there is a visible difference between the two brain hemispheres; the right has slightly longer connections, but i think it's likely that this difference evolved from two identical hemispheres, in some primitive little creature. the two main advantages of a symmetrical body are balance and backup. balance for efficient movement in an environment with gravity, and backup for when a part of the body is damaged. but given enough time, things become more complex; two eyes develop 3D vision, two ears develop 3D hearing....the two brains interact with each other. everything starts to get really clever....because it can. but each half retains enough similarity to act as an adequate backup when one half is damaged. doctors know that. the removal of the left or right hippocampus is becoming a popular treatment for seizures. in some cases, the removal of the entire left or right brain. but i agree that we should stay close to new research. some of it is helpful.

  11. Art: I would like to take exception to your statement:- "I cannot ignore science and get on with it. I need to stay close to new research ............... it is for science, writ large." There is pure science (science for the sake of science) and applied science), just as there is pure math and applied math. If your science and discovery were applied, we would be using it to make sure that the children of tomorrow were not being traumatized with our neurotic notions. It's not too 'big a stretch' to see how that might be achieved. Science 'writ large' ain't doing very much for us as a living creature IMO.


  12. Richard you need to communicate with our intern FRANK. He can explain a lot to you about this. Frank are you there? art

  13. by my cher Jacques. I do both. Have you not noticed? You want me to be everything to everyman? I will try art

  14. Art: In all honesty I have not noticed you doing both, yet I have no doubt that you are a very feeling-full person. I only read your blogs and it seems to me, to be left brain stuff. What I am inferring is that either you or someone connected with Primal stuff offers guidance to would be mothers ... and fathers. I wrote a chapter on the subject in both my books, but sadly, I have very little credence. I also acknowledge that the subject is larger than what I was able to offer. I hope it would be a start and maybe even an inspiration, specially to some couple having brought a child into the world and connected to Primal therapy.

    An attempt to validates ones scientific theories is all well and good in the scientific world, but outside it, I feel it has little or no relevance. Science is a relatively recent pursuit in the evolution of mankind and, as I see it, has never questioned the validity of it's own existence or even demonstrated it's usefulness to us as a species. We are the only creature that pursues this endeavor and since we suffer a very debilitating disease; it says little for the pursuit. Maybe a huge act-out ... yeah?

    P.S. There's no way you can be everything to everyone ... trying is a forlorn task, IMO


  15. It's fantastic how the blog is written, I liked: 'and when the depths of emotional pain surges forward the person is suddenly aware of what is down there'.

    I am one of those guys who is suffering an awful long time plainly because of fear and hopelessnes, I'm 'depressed' because of the ('in'-)fighting.

    My problem is in fact very easy to solve, but I forgot. I can't really help myself, I'm so far, yet so close. It is unfair, but it is what it is. It is depressing.

    I need help, it's very hard. I've been here almost two decades and I have to admit that I'm a slow learner, but this goes too far.

    Joop from Holland but in Culver City.

  16. Art and Richard,

    It is physiologically to feel... see and hear and it is psychologically to interpret what we feel… see and hear. What belongs to what? It is only possible to feel when we are at the physiological experiences of what the content says. Understanding this can be crucial when we are looking for answers of intellectual character… otherwise… of cause it is incredibly interesting.


  17. @Jack, I'm sorry to admit that I am a part of the great unwashed and do not know your work... nor do you know my poetry books, I suspect, but I wanted to share with you about this guy named Bergman, a medical doc who developed Kangaroo Mother Care. In my research around parenting, his guides seem most natural and connected... have you read him or seen the Kangaroo Mother Care videos? I am forever grateful to Sieglinde, who sometimes writes to this blog: she introduced me to KMC... bonding and connectedness naturally leads us to primal, to fuller feeling, and seeking a natural balance.

  18. Art & Richard

    For anyone intellectual as think as source of their views... it is the left brain that are the only part of the brain that are available... except for leaking motions... "motions" that has an impact on us... and thereby alters our perception. If I know I'm shy... it does not mean that I know for what reason I am shy... and it affect the brain and its thoughts for an explanation. When I care about what a professor explain... I'll must make it clear to my self... what I understand is just based on my own terms. When this is solved we do not need to go through all those sentences of what there is or not. I know that primaltherapy has to go through this madness... madness as nothing... except science itself may be to convince all those professors who do not know nothing about feelings. I know Art... you are looking for all of us "professors" that can se. The big question is how do we convince those who need to know? "trying is a forlorn task" no it is not Jack


  19. Jacquie: first have the therapy and then we can discuss being an intern. I hope we can both do it. We always need therapists. art

  20. Brian: I'm willing to send a .PDF. files to anyone in the Primal community of both or either of my books if I get an email address. It's free. I don't believe I am allowed to put mine on this blog. if that is incorrect here it is:

    Yes, I saw the video of Kangaroo Mother Care at the Primal Institutes over a year ago and was impressed. I did not know the doctors name but I mentioned it in both my books and included it in the bibliography, as an Australian TV program.


  21. Thank you Art, that is my plan for next year.
    I cannot wait.
    Your encouragement means a lot

  22. Jack

    Science does not prove itself until there are minds which can absorb what science includes. Principles and politically ideological factors are not easy to overcome. I remember one guy who stood up on a park bench in Venice near Santa Monica beach ... He held political speeches ... speeches that enthralled hundreds of people in just minutes ... with that enthusiasm and primal therapy as a tool it would make a different for PT to get a kick forward. Jack, I get the feeling that you have tied up in puzzlement about primal therapy… rather than let it flourish.
    Giving with words of love ... even to those poor who do not feel see or hear will be surprised. ”Faith” moves mountains and faith in primal therapy is probably the first thing we do before we can take advantage of it... Jack what is there that may be of interest to a lost soul? The revolutionary idea of what Primal Therapy could do is not to reject. Of course… science has an important role but it need not be rigid and frozen.


  23. Andrew,

    "Quality before quantity". That was an intresting point for misunderstanding. Andrew... you know quantity is what all those professors in psychlogy are after… otherwise it would be primaltherapy in all sence of the word. that is the only therapy that maintains quality. So the words... maybe should suited those who may can feel ... see and hear more about what primaltherapy has to offer... and in large number confirming primal therapy's effect. Then... perhaps the professionals would see what they were unable to perceive.


  24. Frank: I found your comment somewhat convoluted. If your reference was about "Swami" who stood on the park benches in Venice, way back in the 80's, he was exceedingly funny, I remember him well. If you get the feeling I am "tied up in puzzlement"; great, that is your feeling, but it's not mine. I have lots of feelings lots of the time and express them as they occur to me. Nothing puzzling in the least: quite the contrary, exceedingly simple. I KNOW feelings are what life is about ... for me. "Faith" and "spirituality" are just words that can mean different things to different people. You say "Of course ... science has an important role", really!!! To me, science it is very, VERY, V E R Y rigid ... by its nature


  25. Part 1 of 2

    The State is not democratic until acknowledges needs.

    But the the market is very democratic


    "Voting in the polling place is a very different kind of freedom than voting in the marketplace. When you vote in the polling place, it is important, but it's very different. When you vote, you vote for a package. And, if you are in the minority, you lose. You don't get what you want. When you vote in the marketplace, everybody gets what he votes for. If I vote for a green tie, I get a green tie. You vote for a blue tie, you get a blue tie. If we do that in the polling booth, if 60 percent of us vote for a green tie, you have to wear a green tie. It's a very different and less efficient mechanism for matching performance, matching results, to individual taste and preference"

    -Milton Friedman, in a discussion with 4 people who disagree with him


    "You will find it hard to find anybody who will say that if 55% of the people believe the other 45% of the people should be shot, that's an appropriate exercise of democracy."
    -Milton Friedman


    Nothing to do with science; nothing to do with the brain or psychology or people’s suffering; more to do with finance and economics.

    Modern medicine looks like business but it's heavily intermingled with government which does not make it a free market institution, very similar to Central Banking and Wall Street.

    Take away the power of the AMA union keeping the number of physicians low, the FDA's power creating an unfair playing field by keeping away thousands year old competitors who cure such as Chiropractors, Naturopaths, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and so on, and lets see what happens.

    Let's hand it over to the more eloquent Dr. Friedman giving a lecture directly to the AMA


    "The right cure would be all the way, no government regulation, no government subsidization, and to take the point that will shock most of you and which is equally important: No licensure of physicians, because of reducing and eliminate the monopoly power of the American Medical Association.

    That monopoly power is derived almost entirely from the fact that the practice of medicine is an activity which can be engaged in by only those who have licenses from government. And the control over that licensure procedure is what has enabled the AMA to exercise its monopoly power for these many decades."


    .. to the physicians in this room: If I say to you, do you favor the kind of monopolistic practices with the AMA has followed over the past 40-50 years? I suspect that most of the physicians would say No I oppose it. If I say to them are you in favor of permitting the unlicensed practice of medicine, I suspect most of the physicians will say No I am not in favor of that I am opposed to that. I just urge on them that they better choose which of those propositions they want to believe. They cannot believe both. because to believe both is to say that 2 and 2 make 5.


    .. it will provide for better medical care, more widely available, at lower cost for the bulk of the people.

  26. Part 2 of 2

    He lost it in the seven years of desiccated, disembodied, devitalized and etiolated study.

    same thing again, this time remove the government subsidies and grants to intellectuals and academia and let's see what happens when they are getting results on something that works in real life.


    It was appropriate to be afraid of father in the past but not normal now to be afraid of authority figures.

    how about when institutions like giant insurance corporations go against the free market and use authority figures. Insurance corporations thought they would be getting a bonanza under Obamacare by getting the government to force everyone to buy their product

    It's more about the use of aggression against non aggressors


    "I'm not against the government or anyone else having a function, I'm against the coercive aspects of the government. If the government did not have tax revenues, if it did not force people to pay for it, if it fully depended on voluntary subscriptions say a lottery or an off track betting or whatever. The answer is that it's against the initation of violence against non aggressors. If the government were to just exist on voluntary subscriptions and would not either force people to pay money or disallow competition with it then that would be perfectly justified"
    -Walter Block


    It wants more and more money because he cannot feel any fulfillment.

    It's can't give any fulfillment, especially if acquired by force. In the voluntary sector there are two kinds of money problems not enough and too much, which one would people rather have


    The left loves numbers, statistics and categories, and the so-called “objective facts.”

    There's an ancient proverb that says fear not the weapon but the man who wields it. Statistics at the back of many primal books and categories like measuring vital sign outputs are great in the right hands.


    We see this in the political sphere where groups want more and more arms because they feel unsafe. They concoct an enemy that we must arm against.

    absolutely right


    "I'm for disarmament too, I think the biggest killers in the world must disarm first. The biggest killers are not those with rifles, guns and knives, they're people in B-52's."
    -Walter Block


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.