Monday, May 7, 2012

The Meaning of Life

I lost a pal today;  eight years old.  He  died of a tumor around his brainstem.  His mother went everywhere in the world to save him; to no avail.   He was in New York but one day the family came out to join us for a day and I made tacos; not any tacos, mind you, but Janov specials.   And he loved them.  His mother wrote and told me he loved them and I thought: a few moments of pleasure in a very short life.   And so what did that life mean? Will he take that memory of the tacos to the grave?  No he won’t.  The only meaning the taco had was that day and his memories while he was alive.  After that, no meaning at all.  So what was the meaning of his life?  That day and many others that gave him pleasure.  No other meaning, sad as that seems.

Many of us try to get as much as we can out of life, and many people keep traveling and going here and there, off to the jungles or South America to get more out of it.  And secretly they still feel empty; they cannot feel their experience, cannot really experience it, because feeling is meaning and that lies out of reach of so many of us.  Without feeling centers what do sharks get out of life?   No a lot.  Not much meaning. We are feeling mammals; we need to be in contact with that in ourselves.  My pal got as much as he could but he spent most of his life going to Europe to doctors.  He was never told he was dying but he sensed it; and one day after a doctor visit, he asked his mother, “Do they speak English where I’m going?”  Whereupon I crashed, thinking of his agony and his dread. That tiny body riddled with foreboding that no one could take away.  That is what many of us have all of the time; foreboding of a crime foretold and a crime already passed.   And that crime is the pain that settles in so early in so many of us that leaves us with the same foreboding that my pal had; why? because death was in the offing so soon in our lives, at birth and before.  It happened even sooner than what happened to my little pal.  And it was imprinted and remained a force that dogged us. So we travel and go and go, and still that appointment in Summara catches up to us and rings our bell so loudly that we cannot even sleep.  It says “death is hurrying toward us,”  and there is no escape.  That memory is hurtling to our conscious/awareness at warp speed and no matter what we do and where we go, it is unrelenting.  This is a reality in our young innocent lives; death was approaching, strangled on the cord, too much anesthesia, etc.  There was no exit and still isn’t.  It never lets us rest.
  We keep on going very much like my pal, traveling all over Europe to find surcease: a cure.   Alas.  No.  For us the cure is to feel; to retrieve what we lost early on when death was coming toward us.  We can do it now. My pal can’t.


  1. What can we do Art? It's just so sad... so sad... so sad... Your pal will never taste your takos again. There is a void in me that speaks the same language. I'm so sorry.


    1. You know Frank, life goes on. We can weep and mourn but at the end of the day it is all we can do. That is why I write. As long as I am alive I want to make this a better world. Be good to each other. I would like not to charge for my therapy. mental health should not have a price. art

    2. Bonjour,

      Here's a suggestion based on two facts:

      1st: Primal Therapy really works because it relies on a natural process. The primal therapist doesn't "provide a cure" but triggers natural healing functions inside the patient, a kind of gag reflex that's been forgotten under centuries of "education".

      2nd: Every living creature capable of learning, when faced to something unknown, begins to play with it. Obviously, human beings follow the same strategy.

      Now, you probably guessed already what my suggestion is about... Why wouldn't you encourage your readers to play with the natural process that lies under Primal Therapy? Not playing with therapy of course! That's a therapist's job. But playing with our inner ability to grow and evolve along that natural track, including feelings. I know this strategy implies errors, but have you also observed how drunk people seem to be protected by guardian angels? In French we say: "la bonne étoile de l'alcoolique". While they couldn't even remember their names last night, they wake up in their own bed, in pajamas... I don't believe in angels, but don't you think there's something real behind this we could rely on? A kind of universal lever that brings us always back to ourselves even though we can't feel it?

      If this strategy implies errors, it also implies success. Instead of trying to make a therapy available to everyone, wouldn't it be more realistic to invite everyone to feel, before any therapy? This would leave more energy for making a therapy available to the ones who need it. You could retort that's what you're doing already. Yes, it's true in a sense. But you clearly stop people who'd like to go further. I understand very well. Without a minimum of theory, people can easily slip into believing that "the Lord saved them" as soon as they feel something scary. Honestly, do your warnings make any difference? Does it prevent your readers to take LSD or develop false hopes?

      The goal of neurosis is to divert pain caused by feelings of unmet needs. The goal of Primal Therapy is to feel the need hidden by pain and so reroute the whole system to its normal state. Isn't that process simple enough to let anybody play with it? You brilliantly explained it again and again in your books and blogs, in such an inviting style. Actually, you already did the hard work.

      Recently, you wrote: "One piece of advice: when there is that stab of some feeling upon arising in the morning, instead of running from it, lie back and let it sweep over you. It often helps, and you will eventually understand why that problem is there in the first place."

      Does it mean we're on the same wave length?

    3. Laurent: Le problème: c'est un danger quand on pratique seul. I have seen it too often. People try to do the therapy alone and it rarely works; they soon go off and begin to symbolize or get into a false groove. For advanced patients it is ok but not those starting out. You cannot mess around with the brain; it is unforgiving.

    4. Dr. Janov,
      In your answer to Laurent you say, “they soon go off and begin to symbolize or get into a false groove.”
      For me it was not going into a false groove. I simply acknowledged that my brain protected me from going all the way down by myself. Yes, I made giant steps, connecting 3 and 2 layer pain and found out how today's pain is connected to my childhood. Then I had to recognize that there is a barrier, preventing me from going deeper, down to birth and earlier. Instead of seeking “godly symbolism” I did everything to come to Venice.
      Looking forward seeing you all in Fall,

    5. Sieglinde: Looking forward to seeing you. art

    6. I have to say, I don't believe self-primaling ever works: it's like asking our immune systems to undo themselves. Neurosis and gating is at once a gift that saves our lives and a curse that kills us prematurely. I did therapy at the Primal Institute in the 1970s and 1980s, it literally saved my life (I was quite suicidal at the time), but as I and my wife and many dear friends went off and relied on buddying and self-primaling virtually all of us became grooved in abreactive patterns, some of us quite destructively so. France Janov speaks beautifully to this in "Abreaction vs. Connected Feeling" ( on Bruce Wilson's and Peter Prontzos' great blog, The Primal Mind. Now Primal Therapy was in very early days 30-35 years ago; the therapy practiced at the Primal Center today is dramatically more powerful and effective, remarkably different and yet fundamentally the same--like Einstein's physics versus Newton's--thanks to the perseverance of Art and France and the wonderful people at the Center. John Lennon once referred affectionately to Art as the "One-Eyed Witch Doctor"; thank goodness he has been so "one-eyed": mankind is fortunate for Art's focus and determination and courage and genius.

    7. Page: My oh My, such a wonderful note. thanks art

    8. Thank you for all these answers and reactions. A special thank to Page for the link. I've been googling a long time for such a clear definition of abreaction.

      Now, although I trust without question your experience and all the "self-disasters" you witnessed, I could not put aside my own and only experience. When my Pain caught me a year ago, never did I wonder if I was running a danger while surrendering totally to it. Nor did I wonder if I was primalling while starting to feel the terrible need of my mother's breast. It just reminded me a book I had read 25 years earlier. Then I re-read the Primal Scream, this time with new eyes. Of course I tried to cause new primals but I quickly learned that if I wanted to control anything, I'd go very wrong. So I waited for the channel to open wider and that's exactly what happened, in a kind of auto-pilot mode. There were something inside of me I didn't want to resist anymore, something very strong, very wise, very true. I'd be tempted to define it as something much bigger than me. But no! It's exactly my size! It is me. A human body, made of Nature, with a guarantee for millions of years. It's not a vessel for a small alien barking "yark yark" in my head. It's all my property, with a gating system and a high-precision clock included. As far as I'm hiking into it, the best I recognize it.

      From this point, it's easy to claim there's no danger. Actually, I'm no longer able to think differently. Am I smarter than you? Certainly not! Maybe I'm just lucky for having a father who's always looked at me with trust. I didn't realise how much it helped me until lately. I thanked him yesterday and we've had a very very good moment. How did I open this rusty channel? I could not explain because I'm lacking experience, and science. I'm not therapist. I'm not even in therapy. It happened and I didn't ask questions because I was not in the mood for "thinking". All I could do is relate what happened but this is not the right place for it.

      I wish this was not only the brief testimony of a lucky guy. I wish there were a free way to share the understanding of how feelings actually work, the knowledge of feelings from the inside, as Art cites in Erasing bad memories is it possible. And most important, I wish there are many parents who let their children know that they're good in the inside, even briefly.

  2. my two nieces were about two and five years old when they were talking to each other about how old people die. suddenly they both realised that they would grow old too. terrified, they both rushed to their mum, and cried "mummy are we going to die?"
    she tried to think quickly, and then said "when people die they go to heaven....people are happy in heaven, forever"
    my sister is not religious, but she didn't know what to say. her kids immediately believed her and were satisfied with the answer.
    what would have happened if she had told them the truth?
    no matter how sane we think we are, i think we must hold on to a little bit of insanity....just enough to accept death. i don't believe a totally sane person can ever accept death. how can you truly accept the idea that you will DISAPPEAR forever? just don't think about it?
    i will endure any amount of pain necessary to avoid death....that is not an insane decision.

  3. I remember when I was at school (very young), wondering that if I could would I blank out the experience of school by hitting a fast-forward button as though it never happened, and just 'live' when school was over and I was at home and elsewhere. (I decided I would be best to live my whole life - even the prison sentence bits.)

    But this makes me think about the attitude that countless adults have. They so often don't give a toss about the wellbeing and experience of their children for its own sake. They're consumed with what their kid will "turn into", rather than their child's ability to just live and love life for their day.

    Such a sorry mentality - so inherently detached from the meaning of life. And so stupid if they can understand that what they give to their children for their day they take with them for the rest of their lives. An unhappy childhood never ends. It's only neurotic hope that has us believe otherwise.

  4. Richard: The best we can do is be happy and content in life. There is no higher meaning. art Lets all do our best to make a decent world.

  5. Sorry to hear about the loss of your pal Dr. Janov. Poor little boy; poor family.

  6. Hi Art,

    You wrote,
    "...many people keep traveling and going here and there, off to the jungles or South America to get more out of it. And secretly they still feel empty; they cannot feel their experience, cannot really experience it, because feeling is meaning and that lies out of reach of so many of us. Without feeling centers what do sharks get out of life? Not a lot. Not much meaning."

    And, a few posts back you wrote about certain "intellectuals," including cognitive behaviorists, as having limited access to feelings.
    So it might follow that such intellectuals live a life without much meaning. Or, to use your well chosen metaphor, unfeeling intellectuals -- bereft of meaning in their lives -- are reduced to living like "intellectual" sharks.
    Now that helps me to understand the horrific emptiness that truly lies just beneath their "intellectual" feeding frenzy. A macabre life style, that produces mostly macbre ideas.
    They are engaged in a race away from feeling, away from meaning, away from becoming a fully human being. Indeed, they are racing toward death, faster and faster.

    1. One of my favourite simple pastimes is to travel on the front seat on the top deck of a London Bus. My wife and I scurry up and hope they are empty. It gives such a different and enjoyable view of London and it's people. It's sad that little Boy won't experience such a simple pleasure.

      As we went along we went past Bloomsbury Square and I thought about the Bloomsbury Group that strange assemblage of artists and intellectuals and one of the most neurotic groups I can imagine. I suppose they remind me of my own family which likes to think of itself as so arty and smart. Sheer snobbery I reckon. The Bloomsbury group liked to think it was exploring the boundaries of society. The embracing of homosexuality and the high art of the Intellectual and yet one of the greatest minds of the group Virginia Wolfe killed herself during the second world war. Wandering around in a Bell Jar did nothing for her appreciation of life. She obviously was desperate to feel but surrounded herself with people who did not feel and worse probably pretended to feel. How can one feel what is real if everyone about you also won't feel.

      When I was 11 our form teacher asked if any us did'nt believe in God. I was the only one who put up his hand. That sealed my fate with that teacher who also taught Religious Studies. At 51 I think about death having occassionally thought about topping myself (too much of a fighter to do it) and to think about how it must feel when one is so young fills me with hurt. Poor little Mite. I don't believe in God and I think that lack of belief (except for a brief period in my teens (probably due to wishing to be protected from nocturnal visits from my own personal unthinking Devil Shark) meant that I had nowhere to go except towards my early pain. I have no kids to dump my anxieties on so Boom I had to face my real past.

      At least I have a past to explore!

  7. quote:
    "Andrew: I will write about adoption to homosexuals later on and more fully. It deserves a bigger piece. art"

    still waiting for that one.

  8. This is why I love hanging out with children. They are present and open, vulnerable. Joyous, interested, imaginative. Today I picked my sister's children up from school. We followed a trailer carrying two sofas home and talked the whole time what it would be like to be those couches, with bums on you all day; squeals of laughter. Jacquie

  9. In search of the meaning of Life.

    I have for nearly a lifetime been looking for an answer to the “Why” I had epilepsy. It took almost 40 years to find and slowly understand/feel/accept the answer. I have traveled, neurotically, in all directions/dimensions; geographically, culturally, socially, professionally, etc., driven by my pain.

    For the first time in 53 years, I met, this week the woman who, as a teenage girl, at three occasions, made an indelible impression on my young teenage mind. Our youthful adventure died before it had started because I got epilepsy and was (chemically) lobotomized, which led me to, initially, change behavior and lose my vitality and confidence.

    During the 53 years, which have passed by since we met last time, she has just moved a few times from where we lived as kids, and she has, then, only moved within a circle of 20 miles! She never had an ambition to make a grand career. However, a granddaughter and daughter of two generations of headmasters and university professors, sheer talent and, of course, environmental impact, took her on a lifelong, price winning pedagogue journey at the university institution where she worked and where she during a decade was chairman of the special training of pharmaceutical scientists.

    She has read my book about Evolution In Reverse / Demystifying My Epilepsy, and she is one of very few people who has reacted in a positive and sympathetic manner. The book in combination with our conversations has brought up memories and feelings in her about traumatic episodes with her parents. In spite of her background (I honestly want to think: thanks to her background) she is very critical to the doctors’ and psychologists’ ignorant, ruthless and unquestioning use of painkillers and medication supported and applauded by the pharmaceutical industry.

    She is as judgmental, as we are, to the fact that doctors and scientists don’t ask “Why” or look for real cures. It is far too much about pain relief instead of cure. She is also very critical to the use of the researchers statistics to hide, dribble away, ignoring deviations, which for the individual patient may lead to interferences and treatments that are harmful. Several areas of research, in her opinion, very severe lack individuals with the necessary holistic approach. There are too many deep, narrow specialists with no contact neither with each other nor with the reality/truth.

    Having searched for the meaning of life during 53 years and having been guided by the Primal Principles for 40 years, seen through the prisma of my friend’s life, I feel I have got a fairly good understanding of life. I have for sure seen and been through a wealth of examples of neurotic, false meaning.

    In contrast to your young Pal, I was, fortunately, given enough time-allocation and having You as a Pal, I could make it!

    Jan Johnsson

    1. You know, Jan, thanks to your daring to come to a curly headed shrink to try out a therapy in its infancy, I learned from you and found out how to help people. It is a two edged sword; we learn from each other. I had a lot to learn and could not have done it without the bravery of my patients. Art

  10. AWAKE
    By Richard Atkin

    You and I can feel the world
    You and I can feel each other

  11. An email comment:
    "Hi Art just t.h.i. morning I thougt of the inevitability of MY! death(not the one of some 230000!
    dying this day in this world!
    Now it is impossible for me find relieve in an afterlife... or something like that... perse (one German philosopher once wrote "he could not immagine something worse then that..)
    but I abhor these connaisseurs..with their firm belief in an afterlife and killing and lettig them be killed because of "knowing".
    But it is a terrible fact that life has run s badly because yes all those "imprints"(and the hard facts of my overgrown meagre body!!).
    Well what`s left "vedremo" as the Italians would say... "

  12. Dr. Janov,

    “death is hurrying toward us”
    I know!
    For many years I feared death. An early trigger – my grandma died while holding my hand. I was about 5 or 6 years old.

    Today I know and can accept that death is a part of life. The moment we born we are destined to die.

    The sad part of a child's death - he had not time enough to live.

    I’m so sorry for your pal and your loss....


  13. An interesting discussion.

    I think one can accept the reality of imprinting and bodily memories however without necessarily accepting the "feeling contest" that seems to be going on as in members of the primal therapy community feel more than others.

    I don't think one can say with any certainty for instance (since she was referred to) that Virginia Woolf was an "unfeeling" person...perhaps her weakness was to feel things too deeply.

    Some people are happy in their own skins but quite unfeeling. They cruise through life often wrecking other people's lives but they aren't neurotic or conflicted. Others are deeply unhappy, deeply conflicted but feel things v. intensely.

    I don't think anyone understands the way our consciousness and our bodies interact. (I am incidentally a radical dualist - that is I think consciousness and our physical bodies don't exist in the same realm - not such a common philosophical position these days, but I believe it is the only approach that makes sense of our experience. It explains why we have these early traumas. )

    I think the ideal is for us to experience our bodies in a harmonious fashion and it is clearly the case that early trauma can lead to the body becoming conflicted and fixed in various ways - most obviously the "cringe" response where a child is regularly beaten.

    Atheists as well as theists have tortured and slaughtered people in their millions for instance in Russia, China, Vietnam and Korea.

    Subjective consciousness (the only subjective thing we have knowledge of)seems so radically different from the (objective) four dimensional physical world that I don't think anyone can say with any certainty what happens after death. It seems quite improbable that "we" (our temporal body-experiencing selves) continue. But on the other hand, there seems no reason to believe that consciousness discontinues, since it is entirely independent of our physical bodies. I think the best guess would be that as our bodies cease to exist, so our experiences of the body cease to exist but the consciousness of ourselves survives in some sense.

    1. Peter: Please read my Life Before Birth. I think I have some understanding of how the body and brain interact. The information is out there; avail yourself of it. art janov

    2. peter, will you remain conscious after death? no one, not even art can know the answer to that question. we cannot understand consciousness. we can only understand the way it is affected. were you conscious before you became a human zygote? we have no way of knowing. a total lack of consciousness cannot be experienced, and therefore cannot be known.

      you will remain conscious after death? there is no logical reason to believe that. a smart guess is always based on the things we can observe. consciousness is directly affected by events taking place in the brain. when the brain disappears into the soil, six feet underground, it is reasonable to assume consciousness will disappear with it. that is a smart guess. no fairy tales. no wishful thoughts. that's why i want to freeze my brain.

      i am not an atheist in the true meaning of the word, but atheism is the most practical position to take.

  14. in his short life your little pal no doubt brought joy to the lives of his family and others and i for one prefer to believe he is in a better place now.

  15. To you all!

    The meaning of life... the right to come a life... to live... the right to let children live. The right to life advocates the judicial process... I do not understand how the judicial process has not been “materialized”. Do we not understand what primal therapy is all about or what? Are we so ignorant that we cannot stand up for a science that can not possibly fail?

    Do we know what stands up against what primal therapy proves? It is madness against it… we cannot lose. Wake up pleas… life is on its way to be lost… we just got ONE life and not EVER AGAIN.

    We are adequate where we are... we know about the suffering we are not quite sure of what to get… but we know that we are suffering in ourselves and what is there that allows us to be ourselves ... Primal therapy.

    Yours Frank

  16. Dear Art
    I am very sad thinking about that little boy dying so young in his life and about you losing a friend. He was very lucky to have a terrific guy like you for a friend but so unlucky to die! I've been trying to find out just what a 'taco' is but nobody seems to know in the U.K. Do they do vegetarian ones because if so I must eat one when I can find one.Best regards to you and thank you very very much for writing your rare and unforgettable books to try to help the floundering species which we are all a part of. I feel great respect and affection to you, someone I have never met but who is so apparent and so humane judging by this blog and also your writings. We are indebted to you for your work! Thank you!

  17. Hi,

    I just cried and cried and cried.

    Thanks for reality Art.

    Paul G.

  18. So sad Art, so ineffably sad.

    I too would like to believe your pal is in a better place now.

    Art, you wrote, in The Primal Revolution, '“Neurotics need to believe that there must be some metaphysical reason why they are on earth, some end or order that will transcend the purposelessness and chaos they feel all the time. They are willing to believe in almost anything to avoid the knowledge that the only reason we live is because we are alive – no more no less” and further “that the primal assumption regarding meaning is ‘There is no meaning to life, only meaning to experience , which is life in process.’”

    I have never felt any differently. Life for me has always been meaning enough. As you said yourself Art on this blog, “The best we can do is to be happy and content in life. There is no higher meaning.”

    Yes, I too would like to believe your pal is in a better place now, but I can’t, because he isn’t.

    Perhaps what I have said sounds brutal, but perhaps it is the truth as well. The truth cannot tolerate an untruth; just as nature we are told cannot tolerate a vacuum.

    So what you wrote in this post Art is ever so human but ever so sad. But such is this life we live. I for one cannot understand this existence of ours, a Universe so large, stars burning endlessly, the possibility perhaps of life elsewhere and the possibility of none. Sometimes it all seems like a game and the curse of the Gods. So unfathomable at times. Yet the best times are those when there is nothing to fathom, nothing to work out, and just a living to enjoy. And it is almost always that, a joy.

    I am sorry your pal no longer has that.

    1. Steve: Thanks for the quote. I wouldn't remember any of it. And thanks for your words. Art

  19. Hi Page,

    Thanks for the link, here's the concluding excerpt:

    -"So how does one know if you’re abreacting? Again, the surest way to know is whether or not your life is changing. Even if you’ve been feeling deeply on all three levels, you are probably abreacting if there’ve been no life changes for years, or if you are repeatedly thrown into pain whenever you try to move forward in life. That’s when you need to find a good primal therapist to break the pattern".

    I am concerned this is happening to me. I left Body Work Therapy in a state about 24 months ago. I seem to be experiencing 2nd line stuff with occasional 1st line crying as a baby. Deep weeping with masses of tears, foetal position, feeling very cold after, very relaxed etc.

    I don't 'try' to primal, my feelings well up, I can't stop. There's no-one I trust to supervise, no padded rooms etc. Sometimes in a loop for sure. Bloody 'Ground Hog Day'.
    I have very little choice. . . I try to learn as best I can how to handle this until I get to the clinic.

    Some positive changes are happening. Despite excessive pressure to work, to parent my kids whilst homeless, my drinking is down 80%, other addictions reduced also. I no longer idealise people and situations.

    I still get triggered but the force to act out is less. I have clearer feelings and opinions. I have more choice. I've got better at carpentry. I've started noticing the groove I was getting into. There's more rage coming up but less acting it out in my 3rd line. I feel I'm clearing some 2nd line pain, making way for the 1st line. I feel more committed to attend the clinic and less frightened I'll 'fail'.

    I get subtle insights after the feelings, maybe days or weeks later.

    I recognise ab-reaction. It's like emotional diarrhoea dribbling out or an angry script. Not real tears or relaxation or "depth", nor any real sweetness to the need. It is easy to cut it short, get up and do something else. The real ones won't be stopped till they're done. My voice gets rough in abreaction; after a real connection my voice is fine. The real pain is about my Mum, about loss of her, a feeling and sense of really needing her sweetness. I never got enough, none at boarding school. Abandonment, really needing Mum, right to begging her to take me home. From hurt, betrayal and bitterness perhaps starting in the now (broken marriage, lost kids etc). My very salty tears squirt out of my eyes like jets. I am filled with pain and relief simultaneously; after, my temperature drops, I feel really cold and need to snuggle up in bed. Most of all I am relaxed, I can sense the painkillers flooding in my brain.

    I don't know what to do. I don't want to be stuck. I do have trouble moving forward in life. When pain comes from being triggered I am better able to handle it. The force to project it onto outer circumstances is less. Sometimes that evaporates. I still worry I might be in the wrong profession but I really enjoy carpentry and I've got much better at it. I am overcoming my computer phobia and planning a better presentation as a serious professional. I refrain from putting everyone right all the time (just some people some of the time, an improvement for me). Belief in God and New Age stuff for decades has evaporated, particularly those really 'cherished beliefs'. Very odd, two years ago I 'cared a lot for some booga booga' but it's vanished. I'm not frightened to admit it either. . .

    One question: "Is a certain amount of abreaction an inevitability? I mean, when people who come to the clinic to start, perhaps without much tears or crying, is some of their first steps or later difficulties marked with ab-reaction?

    Paul G.

    1. Paul: Oh yes, when patients first start of course there is some abreaction, but we are there to make sure it does not continue. We keep patients on track, and all of our training goes into this subject. How to keep them from abreacting and therefore getting worse? It is not our patients' job to worry about it. Let us do the worrying. Once you get there you will be in good hands. My staff are just wonderful people aside from knowing their craft. Art

  20. Hi Peter Wolfe,

    -"Some people are happy in their own skins but quite unfeeling. They cruise through life often wrecking other people's lives but they aren't neurotic or conflicted. Others are deeply unhappy, deeply conflicted but feel things v. intensely".

    I find your comments really interesting but I'm gonna challenge this one.

    When I am honest with myself what you have written above applies to me. Both parts. Your radical dualism is reflected in this remark I think.

    Apparently, I was once very happy in my own skin and cruising through life. But, (and this is a giant BUT) with only remote & occasional awareness (repression), I was also deeply unhappy and occasionally feeling things intensely as well. I was both people you refer to. Because of that I now attribute the harm I have caused others (nothing too serious I hope, I worry about my children) directly to that split in me, my neurosis.

    Some people carry on with that split and continue 'cruising and wrecking' without any awareness of the consequences, I am seeing it happen in my peers, ex family members (or should I say: "Interlopers and Tergiverstators"). . ? That is repression incarnate.

    Paul G.

    1. Paul: "Interlopers andTergiverstators". Both words good in English and French. English….cannot make up one's mind……... ln French ….procrastinate. art

    2. Hi Paul

      I concur. Is being Neurotic a concious state? No. So those people cruising through life wrecking lives are also neurotic. They are cut off from thier feelings so ipsofacto they are neurotic. Thier gates are so well slammed shut that they have to be unconcious to survive so they are unconcious of themselves and others. No empathy so happy to wreck lives. I shifted from of those states to the other just as you did. Art's theory that Neurosis is an imbalance of the left and right Brain suggests a reason for this. We can shift from Right to left Brain dominance through our lives. We are not set at an exact state because we are an organic being influenced by life around us. Those people who are depressed and have some feeling are nearer to recovery than those wreckers.

      If one looks at John Bowlby's four states of attachment the most destructive state is confused attachment where the child is in a continual state of alert and conflict. If one see's these four states as 12, 3, 6 and 9 on a clock face then secure attachment is 12 (all calm and level headed) ambivilent (extrovert looking for contact) at 3, avoident (introvert in one's head cut off from others) at 9 and poor old confused/disorganised attachement at 6 swinging like a pendulum right round the clock face one can also see perhaps the shift from left to right brain also reflected here. Unifed Left and Right Brain is secure and happy, Left Brain dominant is distant intellectual introvert, Right Brain is demonstrative outgoing and quickly shifting Right Left Brain is crazy insecure anxious.

      I know Art is'nt into his theory applied to other one's but I always find it interesting to see a history of discovery and close some people get to understanding the true nature of neurosis via their own experience.

      It seems to me that Art is maybe seeing more people as sane than he used too.

  21. Hi,

    I just love certain words. I have found that English offers a really good way to focus attention on the important, on the significant:

    Interloper is someone who intrudes for profit. Maybe not money but for "personal gain"; maybe power, glory or just because they desperately needed a new family to feel loved in. . .

    The Interloper must eventually leave due to the unbalanced contract in the first place (it was never gonna work out). . .Thus she/he becomes a tergiverstator, ie: someone who turns their back on those they profited from and walks away.

    Then we can all shout: "Cuckoo, Cuckoo, Cuckoo" after the bird has flown.

    I am embellishing but I think you'll find the cognitivists are just like that. There's political forms, medical forms, educational forms, military forms (foreign policy)etc etc.

    I am reminded of the notorious expression: "Don't phone us, we'll phone you" and they never do; when you call to find out what's going on you find they've moved to a different department on a different funding cycle in a different area. . .

    Paul G.

  22. > " nature we are told cannot tolerate a vacuum."

    Yet if vacuum's don't exist in "nature," where DO they exist...on planet Boogabooga? If vacuums are unnatural, where does wind go...and why? What propels it. Movement requires voids.

    Outerspace is a vacuum. Is it "unnatural"? If so, to whom? Maybe somewhere creatures breathe "un-air." Like deepsea critters that live next to underwater thermal vents. Weird, bizarre, scary, interesting, not-like-us, sure. But maybe they are loved "children" of some Creator.

    Some folks say shaving or tattooing or plucking eyebrows, etc. is "unnatural." How so, since humans do them. Just like something is "manly" if a man does it.

    Is there life after death? Who knows? Certainly not atheists...who'd have to know for sure that God did NOT exist. Agnostics are in a better position.

    But really, who knows? What "happens" when we sleep? Where "are" we then? To think we are JUST brain matter seems too mechanistic. Like Industrial Revolution engineers thinking steam and mechanics would always rein supreme. But hell, here we are today with 10.000 songs stored on a device the size of a pack of playing cards. Hardly steam-driven.

    We have no way to know what happens to the "spirit" when the physical brain dies. To think life, as we know it, ceases, MAY be true. Or not. Maybe we turn into a new form of "being." We just don't know and perhaps can't.

    Still, do people fear death... or not having really lived? Maybe we all just died and have come back. This is heaven/hell. The things we said we'd do in the afterlife are what we can do NOW. Who knows? All we can do is be as fully alive as we define it. Besides, worrying about what happens after death usually means we aren't living enough today. Just like jealousy indicates we aren't happy enough ourselves.

    So...why feel sad that a boy died if life doesn't matter? We all die anyway, right? As comforting and as full an "explanation" as saying he was only so many chemical compounds. We don't want facts. We want MEANING. So maybe we feel sad because life matters, love matters, time matters and we don't know fully why. We just DO. Like the "South Pacific" song says, wise folks don't TRY to explain things like love.


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.