Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Origins of Anxiety, Panic and Rage Attacks (Abstract)

This is an abstract of an article I wrote for the Journal for Neurocognitive Research ANS (Activitas Nervosa Superior) that published last month:

This is a report of clinical observations over forty five years. We describe the difference between limbic fear versus brainstem terror. The earlier a patient relives events from childhood, and infancy, the deeper into the brain he may reach. In the process, the affective responses become more exaggerated; for example, mild hopelessness becomes suicidal hopelessness, fear becomes terror, and anger becomes rage. The responses become more primitive as they emanate from a brain that is more primitive; older and pre-human. (Janov, 2011) That primitive brain inside of us provides all of the responses that existed hundreds of millions of years ago. In some respects we are still that alligator or shark with no pity or remorse, just instinct. Those primitive responses are pre-emotion, before mammalian caring and concern evolved, and they do allow us to murder when evoked. They also permit panic attacks which evolved to be life-saving in situations where rapid and vigorous responses meant survival. A person responding with rage or terror is overwhelmed by his brainstem activity and is reacting exactly like the alligator does. These deep and early processes have largely been ignored in clinical work and must be revisited.

You can read the full article here:


  1. Hi Art
    I wonder whether the "valence" of the morning feeling that I experience as "terror" stems from
    my brainstem imprints or "only" are offshoots.. of all the rest of my many often my life crippling- limbic based .. feelings.

    Dr.Holden once wrote in a paper (in the journal)
    "that most of the patients overestimate i.e. too s o o n refrain of experiencing the upcoming

    So perhaps I am a sissy or whatever?
    Nevertheles I sometimes fear this could be very dangerous if it would last all day on...

    By the way there are not only pains of the body type or the psychic but IMO also mental ones
    i.e. The awareness to have wasted one`s life better put l o s t to phobia anxiety and all the rest of it and-how EASILY it would been prevented!!!

    Yours emanuel

    1. Hi,

      I get terror and anxiety every morning as I awake.

      Just like one of Art's case studies I tend to find my bed the only 'safe' place and having to 'get out' in the morning is also to have to face my abusers.

      I am re-living an old resonance down from boarding school days when to awake was also to suddenly realise I was not at home in the loving embrace of my mother. . .

      Paul G.

  2. Congratultions to you, Art Janov, for this recognition!

    I know of no other person as deserving to be read and listened to as you!

  3. An Abstract of an Abstract of something Abstract.

    Widely in the world of psychotherapy (even among patients who have been treated many years in LA) there exists a lot of uncertainty regarding the practical application of Primal Therapy. So when reading your abstract of your article about “The Origins of Anxiety, Panic and Rage Attacks” (a brief summary / abstract of the essence of your books and reflections) there is a high risk (calculated?) that the interpretation will be: “An abstract of an abstract of something abstract / not applicable or practical”.

    With my unique experience, I am not one of those who think that your creation of Evolution in Reverse is something abstract. However, after 40 years of using your primal principals I have learned that it takes more than an ingenious inventor / guide and padded rooms to work our way back into the depth of our triune brain. With the psychotherapeutic expertise that you and your team have and with the varying patient experiences you have gathered over the years, it is difficult to understand that you have not put greater demands on the patient’s ability to implementing the, often long-term, therapy treatment in question.

    You have in an educational and captivating manner described the principles of how early traumatic pain can be re-lived. You have consistently during 47 years of clinical experimentation, using patients’s narratives and your own made observations, “limited” your books and articles to the processes that our organisms undergo, from the fetal stage onwards, in the short and long term, when exposed to trauma and excessive pain. When you have deviated from this model, it has been to criticize the obvious flaws in the current psychotherapeutic paradigm.

    For those who are not, like the famous avant-garde artist Raphael Ortiz who once upon a time indirectly provoked the first primal, obsessed with desire and ability to experiment, and find their way into your therapy to re-live their pain, and who cannot, long term, organize their lives career-wise, financially and family / socially, it seems your treatment, to be successful, must be offered to a limited number of “lucky” victims of extremely early traumatic experiences.

    It is remarkable that, during 47, years, you have not developed / refined and documented a practically applicable method to channel patients, in and out, from the therapy, considering the potential that PT has to cure people of repressed pain. Apparently, the patient needs collided with your scientific ambitions. Fortunately you are trying to convince, a, hopefully, growing part of the future parents about the requirements, for unconditional love and care, required, for a child, to be optimally healthy and uninhibited.

    The world is screaming for a serious “Primal Therapy for “Dummies””...

    Jan Johnsson

    1. I am not sure I get it. What do you want us to do?
      I do not understand your last paragraph. art

    2. Same here, Jan. I'm not getting your point at all.

    3. Hi,
      I sense I understand very well what Jan is saying. Let me try to re-phrase, first of all the following is obvious to me, but to others maybe not:

      Firstly, there are those who make a commitment in life 'to help others'.
      I'm sure it is part of the way our history interacts with our social relationships. It may just be a tendency to help old ladies across the road or it may be a full blown international conviction.

      Secondly the helper is faced with the actual technical difficulties of the undertaking. After a while the 'aim to help' and the technical problem part company. . . You could say it's a combination of a 2nd line feeling (wishing to help) trying to connect with a 3rd line perception (the scientific facts).

      -"Apparently, the patient needs collided with your scientific ambitions"-.

      Real 'help' can only be instrumented / measured scientifically if it is to become a universal 'help'. One would not set up a research laboratory every time just to Primal for oneself, would one? When people break down and cry deeply they don't necessarily realise the significance of the scientific facts nor the tremendous potential. . . . . .

      Once the helper finds a tally between his emotional desire and the scientific facts he is in an unenviable position of being "THE CONNECTION" incarnate. The connection between his 2nd line limbic desire (to help others) and the 3rd line scientific facts.

      If there were a "connection" already existing in society; if there were not a repressed split in the first place then there would not be this conundrum. So, the problem for people like Art (he is not alone) is that as long as they are alive (and kicking) they are both the 'connection' and the 'conundrum'. Quite likely the helper is also (but only by default) the main obstacle to the wider spreading of the new comprehension.

      This would explain why some of (not all) Art's books are at the moment a tad mixed up (in my and other's opinion). . . I mean no offence but Art is trying to join up a circle, or do I mean cycle? In his books he is trying to write about emotional connection with scientific facts and he the author is the connection and the conundrum.

      Hence a need for 'Primal Therapy for "Dummies" '...

      As Art keeps on saying, he doesn't go on for ever and also on his blog he makes essays about the theories and we are the ones to round them out.

      I imagine The Legacy Program will 'set up' the future of 'Primal for Dummies'. I don't doubt that this blog is part of the future too.

      Paul G.

    4. Art... I know that you've done and do what you can!

      Jan... the primal therapeutic method is lost in the resistance as other notions of therapeutic activity advocates. To change something that requires a science of physiological evidence for psychological symptomatic reactions require a very strong financial backing and requires community involvement.

      That it would be possible to scientifically prove physiologically consequences depend of feelings is probably a broader phenomenon without equal in humanity. So it requires commitment at all levels.

      A successful lawsuit would result in a contribution by society's economic resources and that in itself would be "god given" to scientifically prove the content of what primal therapy provides.

      A legal process could also have previously unsympathetic politicians to understand what it is they ascribe financial contribution!?

      I... we are in Sweden and here there are opportunities that might not be possible within the limits of what other countries allow. So Jan... you know where to find me!


  4. What do you want us (read me) to do? Art Janov

    It is such a vast and complex issue! It brought up birth feelings this morning when I first felt helpless and thought that I wouldn’t make it; to come up with an answer. My father used to ask me “what do you want me to do”, when he did’nt get my suggestions. However, after having laid back and felt the stab of anxiety, I will now answer after my best ability.

    The last couple of days I have read your article "The Origins of Anxiety, Panic and Rage Attacks" a couple of times. It made me happy but also a little sad. The dominating positive aspect, that gave me pleasure, was that you, in one pice, brought together all the psychological, biologic and therapeutic knowhow, giving examples, about the nature of mental /physical pain and how it directed by evolution is distorting our entire lives, back and forth, in our Triune brain and in our entire organism. Since I have lived / experienced my pain and been guided by you and the primal principle, the reading felt like a morning swim in my favorite lake. The content has become part of me.

    Your article is in essence your contribution to the medical and psychotherapeutic world how pain caused by lack of love and touch, maltreatment, abuse and negligence is rooted and, over time, spread in our entire organisms if not relived and felt.

    The negative part of your article is what is missing. Your experience over 47 years does not include a research / analysis about;
    What made your therapy work for those who were successfully cured, taking into consideration everything of importance, not just what took place in the Primal Center / Institute?
    Why did a large number of patients fail, compared to those being considered successful?

    To make a research about the reasons for success and failure based on 47 years of experience might erase a number of question marks both among patients and psychotherapeutic therapists and provide an answer to why the principle of Evolution in Reverse is not spreading like wildfire around a world full of anxiety / pain propelled sufferers.

    Given enough lead time I could go on elaborating my own vison how I think that a Primal Treatment Center should be organized, which I sometimes have indicated in my blogs. My interpretation of your shortcomings has a doublele ambition; to motivate you and / or inspire some young, dynamic and creative inventor / primal person who is willing to try to apply your vital principals on a wider audience.

    I still believe that much of my own experience which meant a combination of Rolfing, career counseling, diet, physical activities and a selective choice of my social environment could enrich a future profile of a new even more responsible treatment center then up till now.

    Jan Johnsson


    What is it in the last paragraph of my previous comments, in particular, that you don’t understand?

  5. i think that it is important to warn everybody of the danger of stress
    associated with the lack of alternatives in present
    life to never let be overwhelmed by it.
    because it can get worse and worse...!

    every day life situations combined with knowing that there is
    a therapy somewhere but out of the reach could resonate deep.
    it is in the nature of the imprint to find a way to resonate.
    but we should use this knowledge that Art is
    sharing to prevent even worse thing to happen.
    whenever we are overdriven or giving up... to know
    that this is a feeling that we shouldn't let govern
    our life, our body. we should find a way to balance it.
    i think that we must respect our limits so we can go back to balance if we must becouse overdisturbing the defensive balance
    out of primal environment can be dangerous.
    like a mock therapy that disturbs the balance
    without comming to the equation. Not good!

    i agree with Jan that there is good potential in diet (combined with occasional fasting), exercise, massage... and everything else we feel that helps our everyday dealing with stress. i should probably say it with more enthusiasm ))
    but that is it for today... and it is from my experience.

  6. Hi vuko,
    -"every day life situations combined with knowing that there is
    a therapy somewhere but out of the reach could resonate deep"-.

    So true.

    Paul G.

  7. I was at the NY institute for about 18 months before it was closed. I was unwilling (or too fearful?) to move to LA to use up my group passes which I regret. However, the 18 months changed my life considerably for the better. Ulcer cured in 1 session, work a holism greatly reduced. We were able to influence the docs during the birth of our daughter which has allowed her to grow up orders of magnitude 'realer" than I am. She has had 32 beautiful years of life so far and has taken things a step farther with her (now) 3 year old son. She is able to point out to me when my pain is coloring my behavior with my grandson, although she has never read any of Art's books. The good birth and pre birth she had allows her to make the right choices naturally. What a legacy you are leaving Art. Thank You!

    1. Anonymous: She doesn't have to read my books, she is the living embodiment of them. art

  8. I use to love fishing as a kid. As a family it was something we could all do together. We'd catch the fish, clean, cook, and eat them. We'd fish mostly at a lake. It was a great time. It was a sport that combined family love with an indulgence of our primitive roots. What was it about that umbilical line to the tugging fish that may pull you in; so small, not more than 2 lbs., but such a fight. It was exciting, feeling something alive struggling against you at the end of your pole, like in birth--something has got a hold of you. And on the other hand, that fish is you. All that wriggling the fish is doing to get away is talking to our amphibian 1st line brain. We have a hold of something primal, we recognize that fight--deep inside of us, a reawakening, a connection to ourselves, our primitive selves. Is that the unconscious connection all anglers have? Is that why we love to fish--we recognize ourselves in evolution. We maybe too, recall our birth in the struggle of the fish. As a kid, fishing was exciting; as a teen it was a skill I could be proud of; as an adult it was still thrilling. Born to fish. Just a thought--Sheri


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.