Thursday, March 15, 2012

Why We Must Relive to Get Well (Part 2/2)

Why can’t any therapy help patients with their feelings? One good reason is that they are talking to the wrong brain—the brain that thinks rather than the one that feelings. Unfortunately, the correct brain, the right brain doesn’t talk much, doesn’t understand English and, as a matter of fact, doesn’t understand words. It doesn’t understand in the way we think of understanding. The correct brain is one that contains our history, our pain and our feelings; the lower brain that processes our deep feelings that can finally liberate us. It does understand feelings; we need to speak that language—one without words. We have to convince the brain that spouts words and ideas that it is necessary to go back to early life and a world devoid of intellectuality, (kids are not intellectual as yet), and relive—that lack of love—feelings that were too much to feel at the time. We have to convince that thinking brain to let go, let the lower brain systems emerge and breathe the air of freedom. It can be done; cure can be accomplished. But only by stealth not by deliberation. Feelings have to creep up on us, not sought out. It has to be a therapy of nuance, of subtleties, of flexibilities and lack of domination; that is, it cannot be a therapy of experts because the only expert is the patient. The doctor has to let go of any notion of superiority. Even keeping the patient waiting for a session is a sign of superiority, which I do not tolerate in our therapy; it means: “I am more important than you and my time is more valuable”. And while you are trying to get back some self-esteem, I the doctor, lowers it by keeping you waiting. It is subtle but there. And above all, we need to get rid of any time constraints that force a crying patient to leave in the midst of her feelings until the next session.
We do not touch the patient when he needs to feel unloved; we touch her when the pain is so excruciating that we need to lower its force so it to be experienced and integrated. It is one means of keeping the patient in the primal/feeling zone. If the therapist cannot feel he cannot distinguish the difference and will touch at the wrong time or in the wrong way. Patients can sense when they are being touched out of the needs of the therapist and not our their own needs. So the therapy can go wrong when the therapist has not resolved a good piece of his own pain. And none of that can be taught; when students take notes all of the time it usually means that they cannot feel what is right and need intellectual signs of what to do. This is a therapy that cannot be done by the numbers. It is a matter of sensing, intuition and instinct… a soupcon of training….a lot of training. When a therapist cannot tolerate the patient's suffering she may touch to ease the pain, and thereby ruin the session because it kept the patient from feeling all of his pain. The therapist may be acting out her own need for touch and caress in her own early life. Watching the patient writhing may bring up great pain in herself, setting off her own feelings, forcing her to stop the patient from feeling.


  1. Dr Janov it's interesting what you say about the therapist touching and not touching as well as the client having to walk out of a session after 50 minutes while still half way through a deep feeling.

    I remember when I was younger and upset finding people's kindness and concern very difficult. I would get even more upset and ask them to stop showing me kindness. I got overwhelmed and felt embarressed for showing my upset. Perhaps their kindness hit a deep seated bruise of not feeling loved.

    My therapist is good I think. She does get frustrated about the 50 minute window imposed on her by the many associations in the UK. I sat there last Friday and could not think of anything to say. It was my body and mind getting in touch with something deeper. Trouble was I felt embarressed and talked to fill the silence trying to describe how I felt. I told her this on Monday and she said it would not have mattered if I had not said anything.

    I think it partially comes from having a very depressed Mother and me as a little Boy wanting my Mum to be happy and therefore love me. By talking and filling the void I might get a smile and a tiny drop of love. I have always been the entertainer in our family. That way I got something I thought was love.

    I think I am right in understanding that the right Brain deals with imagery and spacial awareness etc and that the right hand is controled by the left Brain. A while ago I did some drawings with my left hand and it was as though someone else was controlling what I drew. Some pretty awful and graphic scenes of sexual abuse and all in perspective and scale for the age it happened. Better drawings than I can do with my right hand and I am a designer. I have been thinking of doing some paintings to get in touch with deeper parts of myself. Finding the space is the main issue.

  2. Hi,

    I'm so glad I found this blog.

    I am re-reading Alice Millers books again. I would like to draw attention to:

    -"From Rage to Courage"-.

    Page 39, March 2006, : Effective Therapy.

    My précis constructed of short excerpts:

    -" For me, effective therapy must be able to bring me in touch with the story of the child I was and with her suffering that we usually deny. To bring me to my origins by undoing my denial, I need an enlightened witness who knows his or her history and thus would not be afraid of my own-. . .
    -The therapies you mentioned are mostly not tailored to exploring the histories of childhood except maybe the primal therapy of Arthur Janov. But in my opinion there are some kinds of PT that can be dangerous because their settings produce a dependency on strong feelings and on the person of the therapist and his integrity. You can learn more about this danger if you read the chapter "Helga" in my book 'Paths of Life'.

    Alice insists in her books about how easily we blame ourselves as children for the suffering put into us by parents, mentors and other 'carers'.

    Expecting the therapist to be 'all powerful' is par for the course. This opens the door to 'Have A Go Joe' types because they need to prove themselves trustworthy (unconsciously to their own parents/ siblings)? whilst their clients need to prove they are worthy patients.

    Money is bound to change hands isn't it? There is the demand to be a 'worthy patient/child' and there is the business of proving oneself reliable and trustworthy as a therapist.

    Fait accomplice.

    When I discovered all this two years ago I put some serious questions to my therapist, to my father, to my friends and to my ex beloved partner of 15years and I got no real answers.

    How could I? How could any-one who has not fallen back in time, fully into the despair and rage of loss, betrayal, humiliation and pain; how could any-one apart from those who have touched the core of their true feelings and true self answer any serious questions of loyalty, friendship and love?

    It's not enough to forgive from one's own grief.

    Unfortunately once one has made this Primal contact there can be little compromise with others who have not.

    There can be acceptance, there can be certain types of relations, business maybe. . . though frankly in business one can become even more vulnerable to the 'deceit' and 'denial' of others once one finds all that pain inside of oneself.

    A certain 'cognition' is very necessary in this respect:

    -"Hard though it may be to grasp and to live with, one can only really 'trust' oneself, only really 'expect something' of oneself. We mustn't carry on with any assumptions about others, no matter what they say, do, feel or think".

    This has been particularly hard for me to live with because I was brought up (in elite private boarding schools) to be a leader. Consequently I have studied and practised non authoritarian group dynamics and leadership facilitation.

    I still believe a true goal for us humans is 'INTERDEPENDENCE' but I have now fully realised the need to relive all the previous stages before I can achieve that reliably with others.

    That is a hard and bitter pill to swallow for some-one as 'privileged' as me. I live every day as if it were my last, not in desperation but in awe and wonder of the miraculous nature of life.

    Paul G.

  3. Art: This is one of the most brilliant an revealing of so many of your blog articles IMO. I've read it twice and will read it again. It is so so difficult when writing because it's a left brain function, to get across the notion of feelings and instincts. I've tried. I attempted to get the notion across by saying there are two 'states of being' FEELING and THINKING. I get accused of being a narrow minded thinker and one that seems to be 'out-of-step' with the rest of the world and succeed only in irritating and bugging fellow bloggers. Try as I may I fail to get across my point. That is not to say that I am not something of an irritant, but these are so called Primal people I'm blogging with. However I ask myself the question:- why am I trying?

    That's a hard one for me because I do feel that unless (as you so eloquently put it) we start to talk to the right brain (no pun intended) we humans are going to destroy the planet. Then again is that my real deep deep reason? I don't really need an answer for I feel I have good access to my feelings and cry a lot get pissed a fair amount, but can only feel my terrors in real short doses. And I do get a good amount of joy and contentment, and I love blogging ... way better than TV. I will quote some of this article in my future bogging and hope that's ok with you.


    1. Hello Jack,

      That we have a left and a right brain… as it is possible to communicate with is of such an amazing experience when coming to the incredible possibilities of the concept... I mean… when there is an opportunity to do so... it is so challenging that it is impossible to resist... who is there waiting for me... waiting for me... what ever pain there is. What more can be said… that is so challenging. Someone is there waiting for me... someone that I have been looking for in hole of my life... looking for what ever so ever.

      When Art is talking about… what we have to feel… he says “we are looking for the need"… not a word about what the need leads to… what the result will be… a real state of “love”. Why Art do that… is to prevent dreams of a “happy” state which becomes of such a cognitive reaction… reaction that communication with the right hemisphere fails. First suffering... feeling the pain… before we can have the slightest “idea” about what the result is of a sense… sense necessarily to feel what love is.

      We are in a state where we cannot even imagine what love means... is depending on the defense that prevents us from feeling the need... needs which is what Art expresses as the basic of primal therapy… we are looking for our need. What I am sometimes feel is… life will be totally different... that I am losing my air... is not to exaggerate when feelings of lust arises.


  4. Not to forget,

    It is not just an opportunity to talk to the right hemisphere of the brain that make us healthy... it is also a question of how we do it... the risk of becoming more ill... depending on the treatment at psychological and psychiatric institutions are otherwise very imminent. Not to mention how we treat each other during "normal" conditions


  5. Art, if you recall your work on hypnosis and on Erikson in particular, who discovered the “silent observer,” right? This silent observer was able to communicate. Who and what is the silent observer? I suggest it is that 1st level stem, which still has a means to access and use abilities of the neocortex without letting the neocortex know that it is communicating.

    So you say the right brain can not talk. Agreed. Talking is in the left, it would seem. But that which seems to access both hemispheres would be the stem and it can use all abilities and do so without being detected. Again, could you address the silent observer more for me/others. Who or what is it?

    Feelings are vital and often missing. But to ignore the very obvious difference between very long term strategies and behavior, which exist almost exclusively in the intellect, whereas, feelings are almost always immediate and in the short term. If our full abilities are to be realized, we have to consider both short and long term, and feelings sever the short and thinking serve the long.

    An intellect is vital! That so many fear getting in touch with the 1st level stem feelings is why they suffer because it is the stem that controls the other faculties of the mind, such as communication and yes, the intellect. You say no but I say yes. So let’s address this silent observer that Erickson discovered.

    1. Apollo: An intellect is vital but it must not be wasted on intellectuals. art

    2. Arthur, I agree with you 100% because I perceive that you mean something quite different when referring to "intellectuals" vs an intellect. What most can not accept is that most so called intellectual are intellectually dishonest. They do not promote honest objective reason and analysis. They promote what is dictated by some with vast control over wealth, resources and true knowledge as well as false knowledge. they withhold true knowledge or most of it and substitute lies.

      This is the big step to hyper-learning ;-) OH, ain't that a slick new word, huh?

    3. Without the right brain the left brain is lost in an ideational void.
      The ungrounded left brain then runs around in meaningless circles, creating a new version of reality for itself sometimes remarkably detached from the real world. As it serves a kind of madness, rather than truth, it is indeed wasted!

  6. Dr. Janov,

    I think that is what I'm doing - wasting: "... but it must not be wasted on intellectuals".
    I have send out 4 off your books to med and psych professionals. One said it is "entertaining" the others did not even read it yet.
    I think they all are emotionally dead.... there right lower brain is full of white matter.

    1. Emotionally dead? I think you give them too much credit, SWA. They are intellectually dishonest and misrepresent what they are really doing just as say, a spy working for a spy agency, pretends to work for some other cause which he seeks to infiltrate and mislead. You sent those books to mis-leaders. that is a nicer word for deliberate liars. they know what they are rejecting. They do! You perhaps do not understand what they really do for a living. They lie for a living. They try to keep us all in the dark. I am telling you the truth and one of the few that does. but the truth is not always so pleasant to hear. But I dare not lie, even if it makes me unpopular, which no doubt, it has. I have no problem with that. I knew what I was choosing.

    2. Apolllo!

      It's not quite that simple ... THERE IS NO ONE WHO FEEL WHO CAN DENY PRIMAL THERAPY... it is a physiological process ... one at the present experience that never crosses the line into ignorance.

      Obviously we can not allow these people dominate the psychological development. "They lie for a living"... they do not lie to me anymore… I see what the consequences are of not knowing… “everything” must be done to put a stop to it.

      War Apollo... is never a winning konsept... hate causes war… but hate is also the first step to know why we hate.

      I can empathize with you and experience the same but let there be no mistake. What the language of hate tells us is what we need to listen to… in a safe environment.

      Yes… they keep us in the dark… but they ”just” try to live… they got no life Apollo.


    3. Apollo,
      See it from this perspective. They have no choice, they must manipulate and they lie most to themselves, because they don’t know the “emotional” (right brain) truth.
      But here is the difference; the one who knows, the one who lives in balance with both brain-halves can see their imbalance and walk away.

  7. Apollo,

    If you point your finger at an intellectual liar and say he's part of a conspiracy to hide the truth you are blessing him with the intelligence of understanding the truth. But the Primal truth is emotional and requires a different brain and different intelligence.

    Therefore, don't go wasting your true feelings and insights on those who do not have enough emotional intelligence to reciprocate.

    I prefer Sieglindes' remark: "emotionally dead". By various degrees and stages we are all at risk. If trauma remains repressed in us. Some have given themselves over to this without knowing it; the 'messianic professors' amongst others. If as a feeling person you meet one you will know about them what they cannot know about themselves. If you reveal this to them beware, some of them regard feelings as they would a 'bit of shit on their boot'.

    My advice to all feeling people: "don't go being a bit of shit on an intellectual boot".

    Least of all your own intellectual boot.

    Paul G.


Review of "Beyond Belief"

This thought-provoking and important book shows how people are drawn toward dangerous beliefs.
“Belief can manifest itself in world-changing ways—and did, in some of history’s ugliest moments, from the rise of Adolf Hitler to the Jonestown mass suicide in 1979. Arthur Janov, a renowned psychologist who penned The Primal Scream, fearlessly tackles the subject of why and how strong believers willingly embrace even the most deranged leaders.
Beyond Belief begins with a lucid explanation of belief systems that, writes Janov, “are maps, something to help us navigate through life more effectively.” While belief systems are not presented as inherently bad, the author concentrates not just on why people adopt belief systems, but why “alienated individuals” in particular seek out “belief systems on the fringes.” The result is a book that is both illuminating and sobering. It explores, for example, how a strongly-held belief can lead radical Islamist jihadists to murder others in suicide acts. Janov writes, “I believe if people had more love in this life, they would not be so anxious to end it in favor of some imaginary existence.”
One of the most compelling aspects of Beyond Belief is the author’s liberal use of case studies, most of which are related in the first person by individuals whose lives were dramatically affected by their involvement in cults. These stories offer an exceptional perspective on the manner in which belief systems can take hold and shape one’s experiences. Joan’s tale, for instance, both engaging and disturbing, describes what it was like to join the Hare Krishnas. Even though she left the sect, observing that participants “are stunted in spiritual awareness,” Joan considers returning someday because “there’s a certain protection there.”
Janov’s great insight into cultish leaders is particularly interesting; he believes such people have had childhoods in which they were “rejected and unloved,” because “only unloved people want to become the wise man or woman (although it is usually male) imparting words of wisdom to others.” This is just one reason why Beyond Belief is such a thought-provoking, important book.”
Barry Silverstein, Freelance Writer

Quotes for "Life Before Birth"

“Life Before Birth is a thrilling journey of discovery, a real joy to read. Janov writes like no one else on the human mind—engaging, brilliant, passionate, and honest.
He is the best writer today on what makes us human—he shows us how the mind works, how it goes wrong, and how to put it right . . . He presents a brand-new approach to dealing with depression, emotional pain, anxiety, and addiction.”
Paul Thompson, PhD, Professor of Neurology, UCLA School of Medicine

Art Janov, one of the pioneers of fetal and early infant experiences and future mental health issues, offers a robust vision of how the earliest traumas of life can percolate through the brains, minds and lives of individuals. He focuses on both the shifting tides of brain emotional systems and the life-long consequences that can result, as well as the novel interventions, and clinical understanding, that need to be implemented in order to bring about the brain-mind changes that can restore affective equanimity. The transitions from feelings of persistent affective turmoil to psychological wholeness, requires both an understanding of the brain changes and a therapist that can work with the affective mind at primary-process levels. Life Before Birth, is a manifesto that provides a robust argument for increasing attention to the neuro-mental lives of fetuses and infants, and the widespread ramifications on mental health if we do not. Without an accurate developmental history of troubled minds, coordinated with a recognition of the primal emotional powers of the lowest ancestral regions of the human brain, therapists will be lost in their attempt to restore psychological balance.
Jaak Panksepp, Ph.D.
Bailey Endowed Chair of Animal Well Being Science
Washington State University

Dr. Janov’s essential insight—that our earliest experiences strongly influence later well being—is no longer in doubt. Thanks to advances in neuroscience, immunology, and epigenetics, we can now see some of the mechanisms of action at the heart of these developmental processes. His long-held belief that the brain, human development, and psychological well being need to studied in the context of evolution—from the brainstem up—now lies at the heart of the integration of neuroscience and psychotherapy.
Grounded in these two principles, Dr. Janov continues to explore the lifelong impact of prenatal, birth, and early experiences on our brains and minds. Simultaneously “old school” and revolutionary, he synthesizes traditional psychodynamic theories with cutting-edge science while consistently highlighting the limitations of a strict, “top-down” talking cure. Whether or not you agree with his philosophical assumptions, therapeutic practices, or theoretical conclusions, I promise you an interesting and thought-provoking journey.
Lou Cozolino, PsyD, Professor of Psychology, Pepperdine University

In Life Before Birth Dr. Arthur Janov illuminates the sources of much that happens during life after birth. Lucidly, the pioneer of primal therapy provides the scientific rationale for treatments that take us through our original, non-verbal memories—to essential depths of experience that the superficial cognitive-behavioral modalities currently in fashion cannot possibly touch, let alone transform.
Gabor Maté MD, author of In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction

An expansive analysis! This book attempts to explain the impact of critical developmental windows in the past, implores us to improve the lives of pregnant women in the present, and has implications for understanding our children, ourselves, and our collective future. I’m not sure whether primal therapy works or not, but it certainly deserves systematic testing in well-designed, assessor-blinded, randomized controlled clinical trials.
K.J.S. Anand, MBBS, D. Phil, FAACP, FCCM, FRCPCH, Professor of Pediatrics, Anesthesiology, Anatomy & Neurobiology, Senior Scholar, Center for Excellence in Faith and Health, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare System

A baby's brain grows more while in the womb than at any time in a child's life. Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script That Rules Our Lives is a valuable guide to creating healthier babies and offers insight into healing our early primal wounds. Dr. Janov integrates the most recent scientific research about prenatal development with the psychobiological reality that these early experiences do cast a long shadow over our entire lifespan. With a wealth of experience and a history of successful psychotherapeutic treatment, Dr. Janov is well positioned to speak with clarity and precision on a topic that remains critically important.
Paula Thomson, PsyD, Associate Professor, California State University, Northridge & Professor Emeritus, York University

"I am enthralled.
Dr. Janov has crafted a compelling and prophetic opus that could rightly dictate
PhD thesis topics for decades to come. Devoid of any "New Age" pseudoscience,
this work never strays from scientific orthodoxy and yet is perfectly accessible and
downright fascinating to any lay person interested in the mysteries of the human psyche."
Dr. Bernard Park, MD, MPH

His new book “Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script that Rules Our Lives” shows that primal therapy, the lower-brain therapeutic method popularized in the 1970’s international bestseller “Primal Scream” and his early work with John Lennon, may help alleviate depression and anxiety disorders, normalize blood pressure and serotonin levels, and improve the functioning of the immune system.
One of the book’s most intriguing theories is that fetal imprinting, an evolutionary strategy to prepare children to cope with life, establishes a permanent set-point in a child's physiology. Baby's born to mothers highly anxious during pregnancy, whether from war, natural disasters, failed marriages, or other stressful life conditions, may thus be prone to mental illness and brain dysfunction later in life. Early traumatic events such as low oxygen at birth, painkillers and antidepressants administered to the mother during pregnancy, poor maternal nutrition, and a lack of parental affection in the first years of life may compound the effect.
In making the case for a brand-new, unified field theory of psychotherapy, Dr. Janov weaves together the evolutionary theories of Jean Baptiste Larmarck, the fetal development studies of Vivette Glover and K.J.S. Anand, and fascinating new research by the psychiatrist Elissa Epel suggesting that telomeres—a region of repetitive DNA critical in predicting life expectancy—may be significantly altered during pregnancy.
After explaining how hormonal and neurologic processes in the womb provide a blueprint for later mental illness and disease, Dr. Janov charts a revolutionary new course for psychotherapy. He provides a sharp critique of cognitive behavioral therapy, psychoanalysis, and other popular “talk therapy” models for treating addiction and mental illness, which he argues do not reach the limbic system and brainstem, where the effects of early trauma are registered in the nervous system.
“Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script that Rules Our Lives” is scheduled to be published by NTI Upstream in October 2011, and has tremendous implications for the future of modern psychology, pediatrics, pregnancy, and women’s health.