Sunday, May 6, 2012

On the Availability of Our Therapy

Recently, Jack Waddington raised some important issues (see his entry on April 20 under my April 19 blog “On the Real Meaning of LSD and Hallucinogens”) on the availability of primal therapy and the use of drugs, especially hallucinogens, for therapeutic purposes.

First, why isn’t our therapy available in more places? Why just Santa Monica, California?

Because it is a very complex affair, requiring years to learn, so there are only a few who have mastered it and they want to remain in our group. We are dealing with dozens and dozens of different problems, from suicide to anxiety states to migraines and severe depression, to name but a few. We have to learn how to deal with all of this. It takes perseverance and tenacity, a real sense of wanting to help humanity for pay that is not extravagant, and lower than therapists deserve. France and I take no profits and no salary (except what the Feds require us to take to keep our insurance), and we haven't for years.

We do not have profits because the fee today is only about 10% more than what it was 40 years ago. But expenses are ten times as high. Just our malpractice insurance is more than the rent we used to pay. France and I have kept the clinic going for many years just for the love of it and the people we can help...and it is reward enough.

This is never a therapy to be practiced alone. We need each other to keep us straight, to check our systematic errors and correct our techniques. Those who have gone on alone inevitably make systematic errors which get worse over time. And we need to keep up with science, which changes daily. Those who are alone with a big practice do not have the time to do that. We learn every day from each other what to do in this kind of case or another. There is always something to learn. And a small practice means compromises; fewer sessions, fewer or no groups, no vital sign research, etc. It is too easy to relax the strict discipline that is part of primal therapy.

And how about drugs?

Sometimes we get in a hurry and want to do drugs to speed things up; always a dangerous idea, because the system opens up slowly and only on the person’s biologic timetable, not on ours. We do use certain drugs on some patients, not to subvert the evolutionary timetable but to slow down too much access to pain; this typically for those who took drugs and now have leaky gates, those who have previously used drugs to subvert evolution (and this includes pot). You cannot extrapolate from your own case to that of many others with regard to using drugs in therapy. You need a broad range of patients to be able to make proper diagnoses. If the therapy is done right, the patients usually get there; some much slower than others, and rightly so, since they are far more defended and often in deep emotional pain. Anything you do from the outside, like drugs, abrogates the slow evolution we need in a therapy that follows evolutionary destinations tightly. The point is that the patient’s body knows much more than we do; we need to respect that. Repeat: only if the therapy is not done right does it become necessary to use drugs to hurry up the process. The pain, no doubt, was laid down in heavy increments, slowly, over years, and it is not going to be undone in a few weeks or in a weekend seminar.

A supervised dose of LSD is ridiculous. What will the supervisor know and do once it is too late? And who can predict the exact outcome of LSD? Once the gating system is cracked it may be cracked forever. Do you want to take that chance? And who knows how leaky someone’s gates really are? Are you prepared for a psychotic reaction? It is a precious thing, our brains; not to be messed with.

The problem is that because a therapist doesn’t know what he is doing, he tends to blame the therapy. And decides therefore to use drugs, thinking it will speed up the process. No, it won’t. It will flood the patient and produce delusions. I refer you to current work where patients are given hallucinogens. These patients’ delusions with LSD can meld with the therapist’s, so that they seem normal while the patients are literally going crazy. The doctor sees patients’ “cosmic unity” as a good thing, whereas it can be pathognomonic of serious mental illness. The brain is not something to be tinkered with. There is plenty of science now to help us understand how it works. Primal therapists need to understand recent science.

I have studied LSD for a long time; there is nothing to be gained from it except serious damage to the gating system. That is what it does: shatters defenses and lets feelings up (see Carhart-Harris, et al., 2012, for a detailed look at where and how psychedelics work in the human brain). Can you guarantee that those defenses will re-establish themselves? I cannot. If you want to see how psychosis comes into being, use LSD. It shatters the gates and allows cerebral flooding; then the cortex must go to work to suppress it all with bizarre ideas that try to corral and bind the feelings. The best way to loosen up someone up is to do the therapy correctly.

Look: our neurosis, our repression, built itself up through an adverse evolutionary trajectory. We need to use evolution, evolution in reverse, to correct that—not to overlook it. How can you overlook evolution since it is a law of nature, not some intellectual concoction dreamed up by someone who likes to look dramatic and powerful?

Carhart-Harris, R.L., Erritzoe, D., Williams, T., Stone, J.M., Reed, L., Colasanti, A., Tyacke, R.J., Leech, R., Malizia, A.L., Murphy, K., Hobden, P., Evans, J., Feilding, A., Wise, R.G., and Nutt, D.J. (2012) Neural correlates of the psychedelic state as determined by fMRI studies with psilocybin.  Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 109(6):2138-2143


  1. Thank you for making Primal Center available.

  2. To both Dr. Janov,
    Thank you for your work and integrity,

  3. Art: I concede to your better knowledge on this matter ... BUT I do have a concern that after you, Fance and Vivian are gone what will happent to those centers of Primal therapy? I worry that it will all splinter and all the therapist will go their separate ways. Here I agree with you entirely that we need a clinical situation were the therapists keep one another straight. An ongoing process, as I see it.

    One other point I did make and that is that there are many drugs out there developed by the pharmaceutical profession that, in my mind, are equally dangerous and not really serving us. If that profession was to look into the painkilling aspects of the opiates and to also look into the feeling enhancing qualitites of Canibis et al. that there might (just might) be some chance to "enlighten" the neuro-scientific profession. However, I take your point.

    My strong feeling is that there needs to be another writer/thinker in the vein of Frederick LeBoyer and A.S.Neil to write a book about child-rearing for potential parents, who sincerely want to do what is right and best for their off-springs. Based on my own writing on the chapter in my books on the subject I don't think it would be an impossible task. However, I have not found anyone willing to write that book.


    1. Jack: Those books are already out there. There is a lady from santa barbara whose name i forgot who writes good stuff. I think it is Aletha Solters. Listen, i can only do what i can while i live. After that, you are on your own. I will go on elucidating as best i can. Art look around. There is booga booga everywhere in the name of primal. Without feeling there is no end of the nonsense that they create. What a world. The neocortex was created to save us and all it is doing is driving us into nuttiness.

  4. I for one am so glad that that you and Dr. France and therapists do what you do. Thank you all. JLx

    1. JL: Don't forget. We are here for you all. art

  5. Hi Art,

    I thank you for your lifetime efforts too. I won't speculate what would have become of me without them.

    This blog is potentially the most constructive development of your work yet because it offers serious discussion of human development issues to lay people which could not be possible anywhere else on the planet. It is a unique privilege to be part of this and I hope for humanities' sake that somehow the blog can continue indefinitely.

    It's an aside and not central to the issues but it is worth mentioning that I was once involved in a not for profit environmental business and though it lost money and could not be sustained I have absolutely no regrets. On the contrary, there were some lasting achievements through a few dedicated beneficiaries (and a restored ancient coppice woodland) who are now working successfully in various related industries. Occasionally I get some credit for my part in their training.
    More importantly though is the idea of 'enlightened entrepreneurial business'. Perhaps all readers of this blog would agree that we are living through incredible times. Incredibly selfish and greedy times.

    The need for intelligent charity and for compassion between each other mounts exponentially. Every attempt to live life with a passion for implementing really good ideas and for the satisfaction of real needs first and foremost is to be commended. The 'bottom line' rears its' ugly head far too often in the reasoning of our masters and it is a cliche they rarely adhere to themselves.

    Our masters waste so much money on un-necessary and unsustainable development they are hypocrites to keep on citing the blessed 'bottom line'.

    If we take but a moments notice of Primal Theory then we would perhaps agree that the real 'bottom line' is the traumatic pain registered in most of our brainstems; that is what is un-consciously driving the incompetence and wastefulness in the world.

    No wonder therapists who do finally make it through the training at the Clinic only want to work inside the Clinic. I would be interested to find out how many therapists from other 'systems' of psychotherapy have considered re-training at the clinic or actually done so. Is it possible that this blog may eventually attract a following wide enough to catch more 'enlightened funders' and more willing trainees?

    I hope so.

    Paul G.

    1. Paul: I wouldn't look anywhere else for therapists. They nearly all come from inside the house. The incredible phenomenon is that over 200.000 shrinks in the US. manage to ignore primal. That is something a Ph.D. should study. Art

  6. Hi Art
    Life is beautiful because so long ago I read your books and jumped into your life saving work. Thankfully the reverse evolution process is not finished. I am still discovering new meaning and new joy.

    Deeply grateful.

  7. Dear Mr Janov,

    First i am not very fluent in english, so please forgive my english.
    You are talking about LSD, but what about psychedelic plants which are used in ancient cultures by shamans ? Are they causing only psychosises, or can they be useful in mental health ?


    1. Philippe: I don't believe in anything artificial in regard to therapy and the brain. I have never found it useful except pain killers for some entering patients at the start. You are fooling around with our most precious organ…..the brain.

  8. Can I please ask Frank who is a therapist at the primal centre, if he happens to read this, or ask you, Art. I understand what you have said about lsd and its effects with regards to the causing of insomnia. Have you ever known a patient or person to restore an ability to sleep which was destroyed after taking this drug? Frank has said he took this and I wonder if his ability to sleep has returned or does he have to take sleeping pills? I am asking because I never had a sleep problem before LSD which I took in 1972 15 times but if you have known anyone to sleep ok afterwards I would be very grateful to hear about it, please.

  9. Hi Philippe,

    There is a way our 3rd line can take control of our total organism with beliefs. We idealise those beliefs.

    I took my share of LSD & Psylocibin and I've tried a lot of other things too. 'Believing' I had the individual autonomy to mess around with the wiring in my system like that. It's a seductive proposition.

    As I said before: "I'm only a little nut and I don't want to trash my kernel any more than it already is".

    If you keep on looking inside for your feelings, after a while you won't want to make "A Big Trip Out of It". . .

    Passions may be strong but true feelings are really subtle. . . it's not possible to respect the subtle nature of true feelings whilst reeling from the shock of a toxic sledgehammer.

    I know. I beat myself up that way. Don't do it!

    Paul G.

  10. Hi Art,

    -"Paul: I wouldn't look anywhere else for therapists. They nearly all come from inside the house. The incredible phenomenon is that over 200.000 shrinks in the US. manage to ignore primal. That is something a Ph.D. should study". Art

    I try not to wave my flag here but I spent 20yrs studying personality type, facilitation and group dynamics, I've done my share of 'workshops' and tried with some success to apply the theory. Nevertheless always putting carpentry and woodland management first as a way to make money (by the way). Long ago I came to the conclusion that the 3rd line (our human intellect) is a bit like a chainsaw with a stuck throttle. It cuts. It screams. It is sometimes useful but how the hell do you turn it off?

    Over the epochs, many have commented on the 'unfeeling nature' of the 'intellectual'; really your observation is an oxymoron because they can not observe themselves. This is the problem of the 3rd line disconnected from feeling is it not? Awareness without feeling is not consciousness. How simple is that?

    For true observation one needs ones' feelings as well doesn't one? This would be why therapy without a helpful witness will degenerate into ab-reaction? Do I get it? Yes I think so.

    Basically the 'observer' in us becomes co-opted by the intellectual personality as a slave to reason. This phenomena is the Terror of the Situation. Often described as a wrong turn in Human Evolution.

    You are not the only 'seer' to be driven nuts by this. I won't credit myself with being a 'seer' but I do surely get triggered by those types. Makes me want to curse, rant and act out.

    Paul G.

  11. GNW: I once read a wise statement "In the multitue of counsel there is safety. I always felt safer at the center because you do work as a group and consult on your patients. and it also saddens me that Primal Therapy is not a lot more availabe in other areas. I do understand however, I thiink it would be pretty difficult to work alone and stay on target with patients.
    Keep up the good work and do the right thing.

    1. Anonymous: You know I wrote that once you get on the wrong train every stop you make is the wrong one; well, once you get on the feeling train every stop ought to be the right one. So I can't help but do the right thing. Art

  12. Hi Art,

    -"Anonymous: You know I wrote that once you get on the wrong train every stop you make is the wrong one; well, once you get on the feeling train every stop ought to be the right one. So I can't help but do the right thing. Art"-.

    Except ab-reaction?

    Please could you write on this subject? Particularly on how that (probably) relates to how and why most of your therapists come 'in house'(the training being so complicated, the therapy so 'delicate').

    It seems to me that somehow the clinic has become an island of sanity in a mad world but only those who get there could ever fully comprehend the truly terrifying nature of this statement. Then, the experience is entirely personal; not philosophical, not anecdotal, not political. . . I can see the situation is just so polarised.

    Paul G.

    1. Paul: I have written twice on the blog about abreaction; i write em, you need to read em. Also France is making a teaching film, part of the legacy series on abreaction. art

  13. Dear Dr Janov, I'm always impressed by the vitality of your blog and chronicles. We have a problem here with this topics : If Primal Therapy is the only CURE really working regarding to your point of view, how can we reconcile it with the fact it's always unvailable for 99% of the people ?
    I feel like a failure to assist a person in danger ? Myself I'd like to experiment an ORTHODOX primal therapy in your clinic and it's just impossible for me (I live in Paris, France). So what is the solution to share your knowledge and pratice because you always insist on the fact NO ONE but your team in california, and surely for very good reasons, can practive it corectly ? Best regard, Stephen - Stéphane

    1. Stéphane: I am sorry it is not available world wide. If we could have gotten help from governments we could have done better. But the ideas are out there, and that can mean prevention which is also very important. I discovered it and now many of you have to figure out what to do about it. art


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.