Friday, June 8, 2012

Psychology and Ideology. How Could Anyone (Except the Rich) Vote for George Bush? By Peter Prontzos (6/6)

Zimbardo investigates the forces that compel otherwise ordinary people to commit acts of extraordinary horror and brutality, such as torture and genocide (as well as eliciting heroic behaviour on the part of others).  He offers three fundamental explanations for human behavior.  The first and most common approach he terms dispositional.  This view focuses primarily on the individual and his or her personality, experiences, genetic inheritance, abilities, and beliefs.  It holds that, most of the time, the locus of control over actions is internal.  By this psychological explanation, individuals are held to be responsible for their actions – regardless of any other external explanations or forces.  Nelson Mandela, for example, is a hero primarily because of the type of person that he is (compassionate, intelligent, and principled), while Saddam Hussein was a villain because of his personal vices (sadism, hungry for power, vanity).  In the U.S., the dominant political culture focuses primarily on the individual as the responsible agent.

The problem with this focus is that most people who commit atrocities are not psychopaths, and individual variables alone can account for only a relatively small part of their actions.  For instance, after carrying out war crimes, most perpetrators return to their “normal” lives and never again exhibit such pathological behaviour.  Zimbardo therefore offers a second level of explanation, based on situational variables outside of individuals that usually provide more robust and comprehensive answers about the sources of (in)human behavior.  At this level of analysis, factors such as ideology, political culture, deindividuation, domination, socialization, and dehumanization contribute to producing irrational and cruel actions.  This focus on social dynamics does not deny the role of personal qualities, but it assumes that, on most occasions, there is an interaction between individual and their environment in which the latter is most salient for most people in most circumstances (Prontzos, pp. 170-76).

Fear, for instance, tends to bring out the worst in us, and it should not come as a surprise that,

people cling to their personal biases more tightly when feeling threatened. After thinking about their own inevitable death, they become more patriotic, more religious and less tolerant of outsiders…(Carey, 2009).

In other words, given the right “situational variables,” practically anyone will do terrible things to another human being.

Zimbardo stresses that horrors can be committed by “normal” people because human behavior is extremely malleable, producing contradictory behaviors by the same person in different situations.  The simplistic dualism of believing that “an unbridgeable chasm separates good people from bad people” ignores the reality that human behaviour is characterized by its variability, so that evil is “something of which we are all capable, depending on circumstances”.

In mainstream U.S. political culture, however, the idea that Washington’s foreign policies might be motivated – like other states - by selfish economic and political considerations, rather than by the wish to spread freedom and democracy, is “beyond the bounds of thinkable thought” (Chomsky).  “We” do not start wars of aggression, “they” do.  We might make honest mistakes, but we cannot be the villains.  We learn in schools and in the media that, “the United States is the greatest force for good the world has ever known” (Bob Dole).

Above all, Zimbardo places the blame for inhumanity primarily at a third level: systems of power which create situations, and which will do almost anything to maintain their domination.

It’s not just that “power corrupts,” but that power attracts the corruptible - hence Plato’s warning against those who seek to dominate.

From this perspective, the interaction between systems of power, situations and human nature may provide the broadest insights into our feelings, thoughts, and actions in general, and in particular for understanding humanity as the “zoon politikon” - the political animal.


There are multiple causes for the irrationalities that are all-too prevalent in political behaviour and ideology, from our “kluge” brain to the way we raise children and how we construct the societies in which we live.  This paper has focused on some of the most important, yet mostly unconscious, factors which can shape ideologies and behaviours in ways which are problematic and potentially dangerous.  Crises such as war, poverty, and global warming can never be solved if we continue to be at the mercy of such forces.

It is clear that these complex issues cannot be grasped without sufficient consideration of the psychological dynamics at work on individuals and in the culture at large.  Only a more complete understanding of the causes of human belief and behaviour provide real hope for a more genuine democracy, one that is less susceptible to the irrational, and which allows us to live up to our potentials for compassion, rationality, and freedom.

Works Cited

Altmann, Jennifer.  (2002)  “Press Release”

Binns, Corey.  “The Hidden Power of Culture” in Scientific American Mind.  August 2007.

Carey, Benedict.  “How Nonsense Sharpens the Intellect” in The New York Times.   5 October 2009.

Carney, Dana, et al.  “The Secret Lives of Liberals and Conservatives: Personality Profiles, Interaction Styles, and the Things They Leave Behind” in Political Psychology, Volume 29, Issue 6, Pages 807-840.

Cozolino, Louis.  The Neuroscience of Psychotherapy.  (New York: Norton).  2002.

De Waal, Frans.  Primates and Philosophers: How Morality Evolved.  (Princeton: Princeton University Press).  2006.

----------------.  “The Current”.  CBC Radio.  2 October 2009.

Dixit, Jay.  “The Ideological Animal”.  Psychology Today.  Jan/Feb 2007.

Einstein, Albert.  “Why Socialism?” in Monthly Review.  May 1998.

Fine, Cordelia.  A Mind of Its Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives.  W.W. Norton.  (New York)  2006.

Fromm, Erich.  The Sane Society.  Fawcett (New York)  1955.

Gellene, Denise.  “Brains not the same for liberals and conservatives” in The Los Angeles Times.  10 September 2007.,0,2687256.

Goleman, Daniel.  Social Intelligence.  Bantam.  (New York)  2006.

------------------.  Workshop.  Vancouver, B.C.  April, 2008.

Hodson, Gordon. and Busseri, Michael.  “Bright Minds and Dark Attitudes: Lower Cognitive Ability Predicts Greater Prejudice Through Right-Wing Ideology and Low Intergroup Contact.”
Psychological Science.

Huffington, Arianna.  “On Fear, Lizard Brains, and 1984”  February 10, 2006.

Janov, Arthur.  Primal Man: The NewConsciousness.  Crowell (New York)  1975.

Jost, John, et al.  “Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition”, in “Psychological Bulletin 2003”, Vol. 129, No. 3, 339-375.

Kandel, Eric.  “Biology and the Future of Psychoanalysis: A New Intellectual Framework for Psychiatry Revisited”.  American Journal of Psychiatry 156:4, April 1999.

Kahneman, Daniel.  Thinking, Fast and Slow.  Farrar, Straus and Giroux (New York)  2011.

Lakoff, George.  Moral Politics: What Conservative Know that Liberals Don’t.  University of Chicago Press.  (Chicago) 1996.

-------  The Political Mind: Why You Can’t Understand 21st-Century American Politics with an 18th-Century Brain.  Viking.  (New York)  2008.  p 3.

Lakoff, George and Johnson, Michael.  Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and its Challenge to Western Thought.  Basic Books.  (New York)  1999.

LiveScience.  “Democrats and Republicans Both Adept at Ignoring Facts, Study Finds”.  24 January 2006.

Meaney, Michael.  "The Effects of Early Parenting on Cognitive Development and Later Responses to Stress".  Brain Development and Learning (Conference).  University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.  19 August 2006

Milburn, Michael, et al.  “Childhood Punishment, Denial, and Political Attitudes”.  Political Psychology Vol. 16, No. 3,1995.

Olivola C. & Todorov, A.  “The Look of a Winner”.  5 May 2009.

Prontzos, Peter.  Book Reviews.  Journal of Genocide Research 11:1.  March 2009.

Sapolsky, Robert.  Monkeyluv.  Scribner.  (New York)  2005.

Science Blog.
Seed Magazine.  April 10, 2006.  One Kid, Two Kid, Red Kid, Blue Kid

Siegel, Daniel.  “The Neurobiology of Relationships”.  Presentation at UCLA conference.  9 March 2012.

----------------.  “An Interpersonal Neurobiology Approach to Psychotherapy,” in The Embodied Mind: Integration of the Body, Brain, and Mind in Clinical Practice.  UCLA Extension and Lifetime Learning Institute  (Los Angeles) 2006.

----------------.  Personal interview.  April 2006.
ScienceDaily.  14 November 2005.  “Spanking Leads To Child Agression And Anxiety, Regardless of Cultural Norms”.
----------------.  22 March 2007.  “Moral Judgment Fails Without Feelings”.
----------------.  7 April 2008.  “Early Neglect Predicts Aggressive Behavior In Children, Study Shows”.
----------------.  29 October 2008.  “Stress During Pregnancy Has Detrimental Effect On Offspring.”
----------------.  ScienceDaily, 29 May 2009.  “Americans Choose Media Messages That Agree With Their Views.”

Smith KB, Oxley D, Hibbing MV, Alford JR, Hibbing JR. (2011)
Disgust Sensitivity and the Neurophysiology of Left-Right Political Orientations.
PLoS ONE 6(10): e25552. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0025552

Tencer, Daniel.  “’Second genetic code’ shakes heredity theory.”  Vancouver Sun.  26 August 2006.

Westen, Drew. The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation.  Public Affairs.  (New York)  2007.

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Zimbardo, Phillip.  The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil.  Random House.  (New York).  2007.


  1. Zimbardo may suggest that attrocities can be undertaken by "normal" people but what is normal. Sieglinde may have something to say about being German and obviously having a strong link to the country and it's history. My reading of Alice Miller's books suggests that research done after the second world war concluded that those who were treated with respect by thier Parents tended to help many jewish families compared to those who were'nt. This may suggest that those treated badly in childhood are more likely to be lead by the crowd because they want to be loved and feel accepted and thus do worse things than those more centred in themselves and so less easily influenced. Therefore I would suggest that those who are lead by the group are not "normal" as Zimbardo suggests.

    1. Planespotter: good point. art.

    2. Hi planespotter,
      -"Therefore I would suggest that those who are lead by the group are not "normal"-.

      It has become an axiom of 'group dynamic theory' that group stands for parent. How was that theory proven and why? From an evolutionary point of view it's easy to assume that feral children will become adopted and in a social species the most efficient way to handle the extra burden (of an orphaned child) is through adoption by the group.
      Relatedness to the family 'group' is another factor that channels our assumptions, our tendency to follow the herd.

      One could postulate therefore that over thousands of generations there has developed a social assumption that the 'whole' is more authoritarian than the parts. So, we follow the crowd, even if we were loved as infants by our parents.

      So there would appear to be no escaping our social assumptions, they are ingrained, possibly in our core genetics.

      If there were a destiny for humans both as individuals and as a group then I postulate it would be to function consciously for/with the group and for ourselves, both. That would be a 'multi-task' that could not easily develop through the unfolding of genetic instincts. In short, we have to learn to collaborate whilst simultaneously looking out for our own needs. This has to be learned in life by individuals and it needs to be taught by individuals who have learned this multi-task human skill. I feel this is understated almost everywhere.

      There's a right wing "rugged individualist" expression that comes to mind: -"Well I have to look after myself because no-body else is going to". . . In this tough remark lies the neurotic assumption that the authority of the group will not allow for personal need. So many struggle with their own rugged individualistic efforts as if the group were an adversary.
      You could say this is a counter-dependent stance which American culture has become particularly adept at maintaining whilst somehow holding itself together as a "Nation".
      How can a nation hold itself together when so many fight against belonging? I watched a very good documentary on I Player last night about the 3 million or so people who live in Mobile Homes in America. Mostly all over the age of 50. They have sold their houses, said goodbye to their grown up children and hit the road Jack. This wander lust is not unique to America. In Europe many millions would live like that if the various states of Europe had not made it almost impossible to. The Romanys fight a losing battle.

      There's that wonderful song from the 70s, can't remember the singer, the title or most of the words but I'm sure you'll all recognise it:

      -"running from the arms of Mater,
      running from the wishes of Pater,
      I keep holding on,
      I keep holding on. . .

      Paul G.

    3. Hi planespotter
      I have some problems with Zimbardo’s findings. They are incomplete and often unusable/euphoric.
      With regard to some people NOT following the mass hysteria in the Nazi time, you are right.
      From a personal experience: My grandmother (maternal) secretly helped Jewish families hiding and feeding them, while my father hated all Jews.
      The difference resides in her upbringing – early childhood experience.
      My Grandmother was a kind woman, reared with love by her mother, while my father and his siblings reported beating and sexual violence from an early age.
      One other significant component: my Grandmother’s parents had a farm (WWI) and consequently enough food for their children, meaning basic needs (food and clothing) were fulfilled – no incubated animosity and violence in their daily life.
      In the family of my father’s side was hunger after WWI. The imprint of disrespect and low self-worth was manifested very early – they were sent out to steal food – rivalry for basics and greed “to have something” dominated their childhood.

      There were quite a lot Germans who despised Hitler and in endangered themselves by going intuitively against his rigid system – they never lost their sense of humanity. If we look at their history from a psycho-historian view, we find in them a kinder – need fulfilled upbringing.

      As I said many times before: it is the abused who will re-abuse - he/she tend to violence, supports a rigid and often violent, oppressive life-style.

      A loved child becomes a loving and caring adult.

  2. Crisis a Two-Edged Sword

    You have been focusing on important and mostly unconscious factors able to shaping ideologies and behaviors which are problematic and potentially dangerous. This leads you to conclude that “crisis such as war, poverty, and global warming can never be solved if we continue to be at the mercy of such forces”. I would like to mention that I had never succeeded to go to Primal Therapy and to be successful had it not been because of a severe personal crisis.

    The general fear of crisis is a two edged sword. The terrible wars / economic crisis, during the last 150 years in Europe and America, led to huge leaps in progress. The industrial revolution multiplied time and again the development and has, despite un unfair distribution, by all available measures reduced the trend of the average global poverty. As a consequence of the digital revolution (comparable to a mini-Big Bang with all its own mini crisis) we are witnessing a new democracy painfully being born. This has quickly led to and will continue to lead to a new direct democracy through an infinite number of super fast social, international, networks. Many of these changes are bound to create a dramatic crisis (political and economic), which the evolution, in its deterministic ambition will create solutions for.

    It is interesting that all your compassionate, rational and liberal opinions and immense knowledge make a leap, of some 2500 years, backwards to find explanations and understanding of humanity like the Plato’s “zoon politikon / political animal”, which can be defined as: “A certain "ratio" of political animals is capable of ruling. A larger "ratio" are capable of being ruled. A certain "ratio" is farmers, shepherds, pottery makers, cooks, mathematicians, military strategists, soldiers, fine artists, politicians, philosophers, etc. etc. So in that sense of various RATIOS of human beings specializing in different jobs, man is still a "rational animal" as well as a "political animal. All human beings specialize in a huge diversity of complementary activities when they go beyond the state of mere self-sufficiency [hand to mouth existence] and grow into the fullness of their nature, according to Aristotle, which is to be city-building and city-dwelling animals.” Turning to the historic Greek model of civilization might be considered as a version of “Evolution in Reverse”. However, it may be even more difficult to apply correctly than the version being defined in Primal Therapy.

    Thank you for 6 inspiring and challenging articles and for mentioning Kahneman. I want to paraphrase him by saying: “That the test of learning human belief and behavior is whether our understanding of the new, provocative situations we encounter has changed, not whether we have learned new facts”.

    Jan Johnsson

  3. Like the invisible force!

    Like clouds in the sky separated thoughts from feelings. From a supposed clear blue sky till diffuse veils sweep reality around in a suspicion of hell on earth!

    Give me the right to what primal therapy can do and I will change the sight on earth.


  4. Hi Peter Prontzos,

    Very well written and to the point.

    I was thinking for a few days, asking what can we do with our analytical mind if the one who needs to hear it is not receptive. Bush said, in an interview, if given chance, that he would change nothing of his 8 years as a president.
    A few individuals with life-wisdom/inside and respect for others, have not enough power to overcome ignorance.

    May I add one more word to the already made points, quoting “MICHAEL KINSLEY: Even if the issue of stem cells disappeared tomorrow, I would judge George W. Bush quite harshly. Six years have gone by, and you know, those are six important years to people like me, for example. ”
    Bush and his religious cronies stopped stem cell research. This was in my opinion another crime, because Parkinson’s has made great steps forward and would be closer to a solution.

    “Only a more complete understanding of the causes of human belief and behaviour provide real hope for a more genuine democracy, one that is less susceptible to the irrational, and which allows us to live up to our potentials for compassion, rationality, and freedom."

    We must learn from history that a perfect/genuine democracy cannot exist for long as we know from ancient the Greeks.
    Trauma will always influence everything humans do - destruction is inevitable.

    1. Sieglinde: I agree as I was also a victim of Bush and his stem cell ban. art It was a crime against humanity.

    2. I know Dr. Janov.
      Sometime I’m steaming with anger.
      Just think about what else Bush has done.
      In 2000, I contacted Bill Clinton and he agreed to 10 Million grant for research on child-abuse and the consequences and other preventive measures.
      (See second letter: )
      Bush came and canceled everything. I don’t think I have to explain why.
      We cannot even measure the damage this man has done."It was a crime against humanity."

    3. Hi Sieglinde,

      where can I get an English copy of the book you wrote and what is its' title?

      Paul G.

    4. Hi Paul
      My book is out of print. I have published scenes from my childhood at:
      Each chapter was written (sub-consciously) with the age-related expression - 2nd line memory.
      maybe some links are not working yet. I’m reconstructing this website.

  5. Hi,

    I'm having an 'off the wall insight'. . . What if there were a purpose to Evolution beyond merely functioning to 'survive' the experience?

    Paul G.

    1. Paul!

      It is a consequence of evolution... not a purpose.


  6. Hi Sieglinde,
    -"Trauma will always influence everything humans do - destruction is inevitable"-.

    Unless we find a way to live with trauma rather than denying it.

    Paul G.

    1. Hi Paul,
      How about getting rid of trauma?
      How about reversing the imprint/Gen-alteration/Methylation?

    2. Well yes, both. . . I'm saving my pennies.

      Paul G.

    3. Hi Sieglinde,

      Whilst manoeuvring myself into actual PT at the actual clinic (it's taking time), I'm compelled to live with my traumas which ruminate in me like a bad infection or a 'bear with a sore head'; I no longer deny it. Or at least I no longer deny what is currently coming up. . . there's still a whole sea chest of buried history in my 1st line, many fathoms below, I sent a robot sub down for a look, it's definitely there. There's now a marker buoy bobbing on the surface, with my name on it.

      Art's got the key and the clinic's got the diving gear.

      Paul G.

    4. Paul: We are going to help those who really really need it. Art.

    5. About another 12 months, it's taking time to get out of the deep hole I was at the bottom of. I believe the clinic needs 6 months advance booking.
      I'm going to borrow the money from Lloyds. They're gagging to lend it to me. I'm getting more work and setting up my website better. I must get a flat of my own before I leave the country. I can also get some benefits whilst 'in therapy, out of work'.

      If I could I would bring my son & grandson. My son is really a post methadone / vallium gestation victim. He needs it more than me. . . that is an understatement. . .

      Paul G.

    6. Hi Paul,
      Let go – don’t hold on to something that hurts.
      Trying to control feelings often costs more energy and pain and does more damage than falling into the feeling.
      (It's someone talking who has experience in this kind of thing.)

    7. Thanks Sieglinde, I know, I was only yesterday on the floor. . .

      I'm making another funding application to the clinic. I'm tidying up my affairs. I'm arranging for the bank to lend me what I need regardless as a contingency. The time this is taking is also allowing for me to find a reliable place to live in UK which is a serious US Visa requirement.

      A home to live in is also what I need to fulfil my actual relationship as well as my 'moral duty' to my daughter, to my Son, to my Grandson; before I split for California.

      Lastly, I don't want to be homeless on return from the clinic in US when I arrive back in UK. That would be 'great' wouldn't it?

      I anticipate arriving for therapy in Santa Monica on 21st June 2013 and I'll put that in my 2nd application for therapy at the clinic.

      Paul G.

    8. Paul: Isn't your start date today? bonne chance. You can get patients' help for lodgings and from us too. art

    9. Hi Paul,
      I hear you. So much preparation – I know how difficult it is.
      It is my dilemma too. We need to think of others first before we give “us” permission to take care of our own needs.
      For this reason the writer, Paul J Meyer became a reminder of what is important – what “I” need to move forward.

      Whatever you vividly imagine,
      ardently desire,
      sincerely believe, and
      enthusiastically act upon
      must inevitably come to pass.
      …Paul J. Meyer

      Wishing you the best for your stay California,


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.