Sunday, June 9, 2013

How Repression Works

There is a gating system in the brain that inhibits or slows the message of feeling when it is too much to bear. When the amygdala’s gating mechanism against rising feeling fails, there is a more direct impact on the frontal cortex causing it to be activated, to race, to manufacture ideas, beliefs, and in general, to do what it can to attenuate the onrush. If the hippocampus is overtaxed with many painful memories, then it may be helpless to inform the hypothalamus to soften the amygdala’s output of feelings. The amygdala has direct connections to the frontal cortex so that feelings can also directly affect our thought processes; and of course, it has direct connections to deeper levels of brain function. When gating mechanisms fail, feelings that are rooted in lower levels of the brain, such as terror, can escape control and rise to the pre-frontal cortex to signal danger. The pre-frontal cortex may label this an anxiety attack, and the individual is then aware of great discomfort.

A cognitive psychologist might try to deal with that anxiety as if it were a cortex-only phenomenon, and attempt to control it through ideas, thoughts, logic, etc.: “Look here, you are overreacting. There is no reason to be so excited.” Yet reactions are nearly always correct; they tell us what’s really happening on lower levels of the brain, even though the original context of how they were imprinted may be unrecognizable. We shouldn’t deny or change reactions, but rather find their origins so that the reactions make sense. Without access to our feelings, we would be forced to conclude that some current behavior is irrational because we are unaware of its antecedents. As for example, phobias.

 Driving our behavior, our own feelings, can be a danger to us because they are too much for the higher levels of the brain to accept and integrate. The brain has a warning system that alerts us against potential overload—more feelings than can be experienced and integrated. It says “gear up” for the onslaught of pain, and the system obeys. But if the inhibitory gating system is “leaky,” it allows too much pain to get through. As this overload of pain/hopelessness begins its march to the cortex, alarm bells are set off. Cortisol is one of these alarm chemicals. The alarm is general, however, and many systems are affected. The brain’s own hippocampus can be damaged by too much cortisol secretion over too long a time, resulting in a weakened memory. It is not surprising that those of us who were anxious throughout childhood barely remember anything. Eva hardly remembered anything of her childhood; it was all a “black hole.” She did tell us in the intake interview that, vague though it was, she believed she had a “fairly happy childhood.” It wasn’t exactly the case as she found out in therapy.

A good example of overload is in a recent case. This is a forty-year-old woman who at the age of nine was taking a bath with an electrical heater sitting beside the tub. She reached over to move the heater and received a massive shock. She became immediately unconscious, but the violence of her flopping/seizures tore the heater plug out of the wall and saved her life. She went downstairs to tell her mother who was ironing. Her mother said, “Oh, that’s too bad. But you seem okay now.” She went on with her ironing. The meaning to her daughter at the moment, which summed up many moments before, was, “She doesn’t care. There’s no help for me. She really doesn’t love me.”

For the past several months she has been reliving that shock, flopping, seizing as violently as when it happened. (This has been filmed.) She had no idea that shock was still in there. It was pure electrical energy with no content, yet it shut her down totally. She had a rigid, immobile facial set that did not ease nor loosen until months of reliving the shock. Her whole body froze at the time of the shock, and even today making easy, fluid movements is difficult for her. Her whole system seems to have contracted permanently; a total overload. Her “primals” as we call them, are both of the seizures and then “She doesn’t care. There is no help. There’s no place to turn.” That realization was tremendous pain because it was an augury of her coming life. She almost died. Her mother hardly reacted. The most important thing she is getting out of these primals is that she was never able to express herself. Everything was locked inside. She seemed dead. Now, finally, as she expresses the shock, she can also express herself emotionally. Her face has expression, whereas before it was expressionless and immobile. She has had constant fears of dying, and it hasn’t just been an idea. It was a real experience. Her nightmares were filled with danger where she was on the verge of dying. I have seen many patients who had those fears and it was not like something in the future—it was immediate—“I am going to die now!”

If she never relived the shock, we would have never known of her actual near-death experience. In cognitive therapy, her fears may have been treated as irrational ideas. The electrical shock in the bathtub is no different from an overload by a feeling, “It is all hopeless. No one will ever love me.” That too, is electrical. But it has content. The shock did not. That is what made it so devilish to discover. There was no specific scene to rely on. It was a “neutral” experience; pure electricity, which allowed us to see the overload clearly and how it operates. This overload, although having nothing to do with sex, can and did stunt sexual expression, as well. And any early trauma can accomplish the same thing.


  1. Suffering is not healthy and it shouldn’t be the goal of any therapy. I think that during suffering there is a release of cortisol, and there can be damage if it lasts for months, years… and if too strong. Can the right pill reduce the leaking of gates and prevent the stress level from rising? The pill that affect the first line. I guess that our own biochemicals are the best, then the ones from outside .. the right dose. The best thing is when we feel and close right after.
    Repression is not bad when we are open to new things. I read in Primal Healing about rats that were tied to the board:

    ‘’Work by R. Gaunt put rats under stress (tied to a board),then gave them tranquilizers. They seemed indifferent to their problem, but their bodies weren’t. There were high readings in stress hormones. We need to keep this in mind
    when we take tranquilizers; for the wear and tear on the body goes on even if we are unaware of it’’.

    Is this true for any kind of tranquilizers? Or for example: does the fetus experience different environments if the pregnant mother with lot of imprinted pain is aware of the imprinted pain (suffering) or not?
    We should keep mothers away from any kind of trigger in the present I think. Because then even if she has much pain inside it will not be so stressful for her and the fetus. I just used this extreme example to make a point that the suffering is maybe the biggest enemy in life and therapy.
    I think that there could be the ideal amount and specific kind of repression that can support the primal process. Repression that doesn’t involve much suffering.
    The pregnant mother you were (are?) treating must have been a major challenge for you?

  2. "If the hippocampus is overtaxed with many painful memories, then it may be helpless to inform the hypothalamus to soften the amygdala’s output of feelings"

    Right, so that is how a fetus's heart keeps beating smoothly while it's head is being squashed into a cone shape (my nephew). I wonder if this ancient gating system 'fails' later in life, or perhaps in some cases the lower brain simply allows more pain to rise when the time is right to allow the neocortex to develop a neurotic interpretation which might be better than no interpretation at all.
    Perhaps a psychotic suffers from a brain that is trying to heal too much too fast because it has too much pain.

    And I wonder if the ancient gating system does not induce a repressed (lifeless) state; perhaps it can still allow normal feelings to come through....and the dampening of all feelings does not occur until later in life when the neocortex becomes developed enough to take part in the battle against feelings.

    Or maybe we are better off without any neurotic neocortical interpretations -- relying solely on serotonin and the ancient gating system to hold back feelings....but unfortunately we run out of serotonin, and so the neocortex becomes neurotic, and that is just nature's plan B when plan A fails. Who knows.

  3. Part 1:
    This is really helpful and well written. You show a 'route' through the maze of the brain that a patient 'needs' to bring to consciousness so as to allow the split off traumatic 'buffer' zone actually release it's toxic pressure. This offers a real solution rather than a new mechanical mix. Repression properly unfolded and explained.
    Reading between the lines there’s also a wealth of information about how the MIND of humans really could be. It's positive. Not positive thinking but positive reasoning. Positive reasoning in the language of evolution helps unlock repression. It integrates and reinforces a two pronged message: nature & nurture.
    Unfortunately, repression has a darker side; one which Apollo often brings up: A conspiracy. But it is a conspiracy of mutual denial in our social sphere. It is a 'social conspiracy' to avoid the truth of each individual’s true feelings. With this essential insight I have been able to enhance my anger management protocols. Let me give a good example of denial at work and how seeing it for what it is helps:

    I just got back from a day out with my demented mother; organised by my 84yr old Smart Car zooming, "old age yuppie" Dad; implemented by my older brother.
    I attempted to strike up a conversation with my brother on the car journey down to see our folks. My smug brother drove in his usual reckless and intimidating style. He bragged about giving up smoking and not being much of a drinker. . . . He also confessed to using his insomnia as a way to enhance his courier business. Driving across Europe for up to 15hrs not stop in his Sprinter Van. Insomnia really helps apparently, except when he falls asleep at the wheel, which has happened several times on European motorways so he tells me.
    I tried to talk to him about early traumatic causes. . . (of Mums dementia). I suggested we should find out what drugs she’s been prescribed. Using his knees on the steering wheel to manoeuvre the car at 75mph on winding country roads he conducted mobile phone business calls (hands off the steering wheel, gesticulating and pressing buttons), he said with kurt irritation in his voice:
    -"But Paul, what on earth is the point of knowing what the doctors give Mum"-?
    I replied: "it helps me understand Mum's illness; it's important for everyone concerned to try to understand what’s happening to her".
    "But why"? He replied with just a hint of despondency (I could tell because he let his foot off the accelerator). "I mean", he continued, now paying attention to the actual driving and other drivers, "I mean, if the doctors prescribe a drug and it works then why do you need to know"?
    "Because it helps me understand the illness and how to help her".
    "Surely it's enough that the doctors give her something that makes her more compliant"? He went on to explain that- "Look, we all had a great day out, surely that's all that matters"?

    Part 2 follows.

  4. Art,

    What more can be said? What you write is so right... no one can argue against the science... it's just the railing in the courtroom as missing!

    The academic training for goal of intellectual knowledge with non-emotional skills... this cannot be ventilated enough in attempts to arrive!

    The academic training for the right to speak in the psychological and psychiatric issues... the right to speak for what the psychological and psychiatric issues all is about is a grief to all the suffering!

    The academic formation is an obstacle of insight and science as the academic formation do not see the emotional basis for their formation.

    What is elemental to understand for the above faculties are feelings and thoughts! Two functional organs in our brain as should be linked... the limbic system versus neo cortex... neo cortex the thinking part and the limbic feelings. The limbic system mediates only sufferings and is in its infancy... nothing but suffering... depending on its content of life-threatening condition which is not what neo cortex "understands".

    In other words... the limbic system is so full of suffering that no space for awareness of suffering is available. So... if we cannot look at anxiety and depression as a symptom of suffering... a reaction of conscious... a consciousness for the neo cortex to interpret... which is intended neo cortex but do not yet understand... an academic obstacles... then we are losing what it is all about.

    Thought-wise... we only need to think right for a change... a change for reason... effect and consequence to take shape... but not without a risk by missing the insight for what the content might cause by the academics.

    The limbic system... which is full of suffering must first get a "vindicated" in an inner personal "dialogue"... between thinking and feeling before an academic education can be considered adequate.

    All this... not to talk about what is hidden in the brainstem!


  5. Part 2:

    Later, on the return journey, I tried to explain that Mum was seriously aggrieved at Dad's departure when we left her at the home after the outing. I pointed out that Mum was suffering bereavement big time. She was collapsing into tears with intrusive feeling / memories of her long dead parents and brothers. . .It had become obvious to me that my Dad and older brother had organised this event to make them feel better about her incarceration in a nut house. But the visit had left Mum emotionally drained. The terrible sad reality is that not only are her memory cells in disarray but also her gates are worn thin and the pain is rushing up. I suspect the drugs they are giving her are slightly ‘hypnotic’ and tranquilising. My brother went on to explain that having Mum break down and cry was better than she telling Dad to "FUCK OFF" and smacking him in the face.
    “It’s just the same as when we were at Boarding School”, he explained. I could see he was deriving a strange revenge, I mean, they did it to us at the Boarding School gates and now we can do it to Mum. Except of course it’s a double whammy for her because at the school gates she was a weeping wreck too. So these ex elite boarding school boys (with zero qualifications) are exacting revenge on this woman, my mother.
    Now my brother, my Mum and I are all very, very angry with Dad because he is still a total controlling narcissistic and tyrannical buffoon (he is starting to write and publish his second novel all about himself). Mum is still in love with him and that tension is tearing her apart, she is dying one of the most horrible deaths precisely because both my Dad and Brother are using her to patch up their own narcissism. On the outing, Big Brother snatched the controls of Mum's wheelchair and railroaded her into yet another one of Dad's preferred 'positions'. Orders barked in a suppressed growl issued forth from his clenched jaw. Both Dad and big brother are so good at gaining the upper hand on performance in Dad’s hierarchical eyes. I mean Big Brother is really good with a wheel chair, always ready to please and propel the next dependent on their way. . . Like a “valuable parcel” in his Sprinter Van.
    After that my insights ran into seeing how repressed people in denial are driven to where the money is. It’s all about appearances. Appearances allow for a conspiracy of sibling 'ascent'. As long as you are "BIG BROTHER".
    On the way back I tried to explain how I was learning all the time to understand science better. To be a lay scientist. “I thought you were a carpenter” he said. . . I replied, “Well, I study science on the side, it helps with my understanding”. . .
    “What’s the point if it doesn’t make money”? He said angrily “Can you make money out of it”?

    So, every one; there you have it: Total and complete denial. That is the outcome of effective repression. I must point out that Big Brother is twice a bankrupt and when his debit card didn’t work at the petrol station he frowned at me and said “It’s a good thing I had cash”.
    Paul G.

  6. This is very interesting, Dr Janov!So a shock to the system which was life threatening led to a primal about Eva's mother. I now wonder if accidents which are potentially life threatening can produce such rigidity or unconsciousness in the body and brain if they happen at any age, please? At 12 I bounced off a french swing in a park playground. This is a long thick wooden thing with handles for several people to sit on holding on along the top of it. Long metal bars one on each end reach up to the large long square bars at the top of it. Two boys older jumped on this and started working the thing up to the top bars. I had been sitting with my sister and friend with my legs crossed on the top of the long seat and couldnt uncross them. I recall flying up into the air over the bars and nothing else! Next thing a nice man was carrying me down a hill. I cant recall landing on my back under the great swing which was in violent motion. The boys ran away! I cant recall that under the swing I lifted my head up and the great heavy metal wood thing smashed me full force leaving a dent in the front of my skull! I seemed ok much later. It is merciful how Nature makes us unconscious of such terrible events but does this kind of horror need to have a primal about? Does it leave an imprint? Is it possible to survive reliving this type of thing? Do you know, please? (They all thought I was dead!)IF it doesn't lead to a memory of our parents or some emotional 'memory' which was painful, does it still have an impact or require a primal to heal? Sorry, the questions but the front of my head still bears this 'dent' but is not visible.It's something to know whther primalling is only to do with the pain of our early lives. I wonder if something ctastrophic at a later age sill leaves something to be relived.

    1. Anonymous, several years ago whenever I was in a shallow sleep I would have awful, detailed sensations of something pushing and probing deep in the right side of my groin. I would wake up on my back with a strong ache in the very area where I'd had surgery decades earlier (undescended right testicle). It SEEMS that my brain may have recorded the surgery in perfect detail while I was unconscious, and then decades later, the memory was rising towards consciousness.
      This is interesting because general anesthetics do not seem to target any particular part of the brain to allow untouched areas to function (record) properly. General anesthetics seem to cause widespread electrochemical chaos throughout the entire brain, which lends itself to my theory that we are conscious in only the properly functioning parts of the brain. But obviously there must be a limit to the severity of chaos -- too much would lead to death. And so perhaps the brain does have a way of recording trauma even when it is awash with noise.
      The blow to your forehead would have caused temporary electrochemical chaos. We don't know enough about the brain to draw conclusive answers to your questions. Early primal patients seemed to relive surgery but nowadays it seems to be less common. According to Art, the therapy has become very refined and accurate -- perhaps it is this refinement that has led to a change in the relivings. Dunno.
      I would love to see multi-billion dollar studies that support the Primal Center's clinical observations of long term changes in hormones, but the information in this website is more than enough for me.

    2. Hallo, Richard!
      Thank you for your helpful comments! It worries me more than a little what you have said which I am convinced is the truth. That our brains record in details every bloody thing that happens in our lives. I am sorry what you had to undergo with the surgery, I really AM. I understand. The body is extraordinary, isn't it. I'm tall and I walk around with hunched shoulders and bent head often. People say tall folk do this but I started hunching and not sticking my chest out, standing tall after my aunt insisted I try a new blouse she had bought for me in the kitchen in my father's presence. I was in early puberty. I felt him looking at my chest with a degree of interest. (My only my feeling!) and I refused to take off the blouse I had on to put on the new one. Then, after my first experience in Care in 1963 of being violently raped by an old paedophile (who was a boxer by the way by profession, I believe.) and the policemen saying I looked mature for my age, glancing at my chest I stayed hunched, trying to hide my chest. After running away from home and my dad's violence rape was not an uncommon occurrence for a teenager looking for a place to stay for a night to sleep. The body never forgets though.It is saying, 'No, I don't want any more of that!' and now it is impossible for me to have a lover even if I wanted one. You see, the body remembers the physical abuse and, I think, thus dictates the future. But sure I was wild when I was young and always had boyfriends. I wonder if you might have been better off having what you had done in an operation under a local aneasthetic. I have to have an operation on one of my feet in a couple of weeks and, knowing how the body reacts to unconscious trauma and injury am going local.

  7. Anonymous: I think that when you will have a primal you will find the answers you want. art

    1. Dr Janov

      Thank you for your comment! It is only the money that stops me... Only the money! I have some but not enough. I would be coming from the U.K. so adds the flight cost. But, I want to, Believe me I WANT to!!!!!

    2. Anonymous: Maybe we can help. Why not apply? art

    3. Dear Art
      I have sent in my application. The interview date has been postponed due to my not having a personal computer (Not able to afford one and a I'm a bit thick with the skyping process.) I have asked friends repeatedly but it appears after much effort that well, do you, please, know a way I can have the interview when someone else's skype adress appears on the screen on their computer, please? I do feel rather desperate actually. So sorry to trouble you with my trivial matters, Dr Janov!

  8. Off Topic:

    Charles Murray, a social scientists and the author of The Bell Curve, pointed out that when you normalise for other variables, intelligence has a major impact on the individuals ability to get out of poverty and function "successfully" in our society.

    I remember you saying, Art, that you thought we evolved out intellect as a place to run away to from our feelings (in part?). Though to a degree there must be some truth to that, Charles Murray's findings suggest that the intellect also helps us to survive in spite of ourselves, by the fact that bright people who come from a screwed-up background nonetheless do better in life.

    Maybe we also developed our intellect in part to that end - to function and survive even though we're terribly emotionally damaged??? I write about that idea myself, here:

    Also, it would suggest that we need to be careful when evaluating "successful" people. A high-functioning intellect can maybe help mask serious emotional problems. (Self control and foresight does not, in itself, make us any the less neurotic, of course). And masking problems that will almost certainly, directly or subtly, be handed back down to their children.

  9. Hi Andrew,

    -"A high-functioning intellect can maybe help mask serious emotional problems. (Self control and foresight does not, in itself, make us any the less neurotic, of course)"-.

    I can vouch for that. . . but I am so glad (as a neurotic) I developed my intellect and learned how to apply it. It's strange but true that in the end we have only ourselves to lead us and for those of us who have been able to develop 'skills' we stand a chance of surviving our own worst excesses.

    The problem with the intellect as I see it, in this sense, is that it's ability to 'process function' becomes the be all and end all of our focus of attention and then we are lost in intellectualism.

    Thank goodness I learned a trade. You can 'carve out' a lifestyle worth living with one of those. I am concerned for a whole generation of young people who have utterly no idea what these words would mean. I mean my misogynist dad used to ridicule my mother for not being able to change the fuse on a plug but I know plenty of young people who are actually like this now! They never even taught it in school; too much of a Health and Safety Hazard.

    Many people do not learn a trade until later in life. Why? I seem to remember Art making a point about some events on his battleship in ww2 where a mate of his (now writing a book about their experiences) was asking him about certain experiences and for the life of him he could not remember. . . Art implied that maybe parts of his own brain had not yet developed sufficiently at that time to actually put the memories together in a recognisable way.

    So the point I'm making whether Art's story is relevant to this point or not is that the intellectual part, the last part to develop may also be the part we desperately need in the end to be able to sort out the previous mess and trauma in the earlier brain parts.

    This has slightly terrifying implications, particularly in relationships where there is an imbalance in 3rd line reasoning power. I mean, to an extent there are some real benefits to not being 'entirely present'; I wouldn't recommend it but on the other hand it happens. "One person's version of history may be extremely incomplete whilst others at the same event are not. The conclusion (false or otherwise) is that: "If you can't remember it, it probably didn't happen for you".

    And then to oppose this frightening scenario is the spectre of us all actually recording somewhere deep inside absolutely everything our senses were picking up at the time. . .whether or not "we" were "present" (attentive) and aware of so doing at the time.

    It's all so mind boggling.

    Paul G.

  10. Paul: I don't think a primal is an intellectual even...or hardly. It's an experiencing reality event - historic reality. Nothing much to intellectualise I don't think - you don't have to 'deduct' to the truth when you're basically swimming in it.

    1. Hi Andrew,

      I should know Primalling is not an intellectual event. You got the wrong end of my stick. If you've spent some time being repressed without knowing it you may never get to true feelings without some intellectual self inquiry that leads away from automatic defences. I'm not sure but it seems repression doesn't require the intellect to work. Beliefs do and add that 'extra layer'of defences.
      Some people don't develop their intellects until later, I am one of those and at first I was susceptible to strange ideas and beliefs. . . now I know that was caused by leaky gates.

      I feel (or do I mean sense?) that had I developed a trade in my teens I would not have believed in all the weird cult / spiritual mumbo jumbo I got into in my twenties. A few years later, when I read the Primal Scream I would have recognised much more clearly the therapy I actually needed; Primal. I sense I would have detected the fraudulent nature of the therapists I did actually commit to and would have arrived at Santa Monica many years ago.

      So, my thread is that young minds need engaging in activities that develop creativity, constructiveness, a sense of proportion and dimension (science dare I say?) and the ability to fit into a team, in the absense of that, non sense creeps in and allows crazy beliefs, which merely prolong the unconscious agony of repression due to forming distorted channels for pain.

      Of course there are plenty of 'devout' crazy belief tradesmen (in churches etc) but I am speaking from my own experience (and that of a few other 'atheists' who I know that got into the trades early in life).

      Minds that are not educated in some applied technical thing (applied science dare I say again) are susceptible to nonsense. . . particularly if the person who's mind we are on about is repressed and unconsciously in pain (most of us). That was my point.

      I hope you like the other end of my stick better than the wrong end?

      Paul G.

    2. Hi,

      Art has written many times and many of us have at some point reflected back our own frustrations with other people's beliefs as a defense against any 'truths'.

      This is such a powerful mechanism many people will never comprehend their own repressions and pain. Even when beliefs are 'deconstructed' or discarded altogether the actual biochemical mechanism of repression remains.

      The point I am making is that many of these beliefs are handed out to young people as an alternative to sound scientific reasoning. Also, many adults involved in education somehow manage to maintain their 'subjective beliefs' whilst also teaching and practicing science. So, another problem is that people are duplicitous and gather belief systems like magpies collect bright shiny things. . .

      These 'things' embellish their defenses and keep feelings down. I can even 'believe' in Primal Theory but this 'belief' won't actually get me any closer to my true feelings if other beliefs help 'prop up' those defenses (thought forms, bio-chemistry or otherwise).

      I am sure that a practical education in applied science and technology followed by an apprenticeship in some trade would prevent the worst excesses of false beliefs in many young people. The culmination of this 'education' would be the ability to set up as a sole trader and experience the independence of living from ones own means through the multifarious human / socio / economic relations such a life style would naturally (actually does) give the sole trader. This 'artizan' way of living is perfect for young people and perfect for any society that wants full employment and a healthy population.

      Why? How? Ok, you can tell me I'm just intellectualising if you like but remember we all benefit from the science and technology developed by other scientists & technologists before us and we look forward to further appropriate science and technology in the future.

      Not many of us plan to return to living in round houses at a subsistence level.

      So hear me out because we are all tool users and I feel strongly we should have all been educated to be tool makers from an early age.

      Why? In manufacturing as well as science there is this very important stage called "Quality Control". The reason we all have these amazing tools is because we have developed a way to perfect the designs and check that they are actually as good or even an improvement on the previous model. This we learn with a micrometer on a lathe in a metal workshop or with a tape measure in the carpentry workshop.

      When young people have been introduced to this 'concept' and allowed to apply it until they can earn a living doing it, they are not so susceptible to crazy beliefs. That is my opinion about myself and many other young people.

      It seems to me that Primal Theory is the ultimate "Quality Control" for human education and development and if only people understood manufacturing they would see that we actually "make ourselves". That is what human evolution is.

      But of course now that the very rich 33% of us rely on the extremely poor 66% of us to do all our manufacturing for us, or worse set up machines that make people redundant (no I'm not a Luddite); most of us would have absolutely No comprehension of what the f**k I'm on about. Unless you have been apprenticed in a trade and practice it as a sole trader you would not have the benefits I am harping on about.

      The outer layer of our brains deals with activities our hands do.

      We humans are tool makers and have been for 200,000 years or more. Without actually 'grappling with the means of production' (no, I'm not a Marxist) we are degenerating. Thank goodness I learned carpentry eventually, I am always learning as a consequence.

      Paul G.


Review of "Beyond Belief"

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

Quotes for "Life Before Birth"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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