Monday, June 10, 2013

On Suffering and Pain

Suffering is not healing; feeling pain is.  Why is that?  Because they are very different from one another.    There are  pains that are imprinted and thereby made unconscious, because the pain was far too much for a baby or fetus to experience.  This leads to generalized suffering which is the agony portion of the imprint without the connection to its acknowledgment.    Pain means connection, and that is why when our patients feel pain they stop suffering and remove themselves from the pain, as well.  Feeling pain turns into its opposite—feeling.  Once felt that portion of the feeling is gone.    So let us recap:  suffering happens when the imprinted pain is on the rise but still repressed so that it cannot be connected and integrated.  Pain is the specific connection to the original event.  It was so strong that it could not be felt at the time, and due to repression it became amorphous suffering.  Thus, it can go on for all of our lives until its generating source can be found and lived for the first time.   Suffering and pain are mutually exclusive, in the primal scheme of things.

Most psychotherapies extant try to suppress  the agony part of  the feeling, often with drugs, which ensures that connection  will never be made.   The belief is that once suffering is suppressed all is well.  Or another approach is the cognitive that implies that it is just an imagination; thus changing one’s attitude will help repress the suffering.  The problem is that there is the confusion between suffering and pain; the two are conflated, so that there is the belief that they are interchangeable and can be treated through new ideas which amounts to thinking your way to health.  Believing makes it so.

In one sense, suffering is in our head because it is not yet connected  to original imprints in our system.  So we are miserable and never know why.  And if we try to “understand” our suffering through an intellectual analysis we remain alienated from causes.  Origins, generating  sources lie far below our intellectual processes and will never lead to feelings and remote memories.  In other words, whereas in cognitive approaches  the neo-cortex means increased intellectual activity; in primal it  means just the opposite, letting go of the intellectual and dropping below to another level of  consciousness.

If we do not do that in therapy then all of the stress hormones continue putting out chemical  signals and deplete the system over time.  It is much worse to shut down  the suffering because then all hope of a cure is gone.  Feeling pain stops the system from reacting continuously to the alarm bells because  there are no more signals of alarm.  Thus the imprint is ever-present in the system and is a continual menace; the system treats  it as present because it is; it is a continuous danger, of what?  Of the feeling that is so overwhelming.  We need to put it back in the past where it belongs, and we can only do that by feeling the past so that it no longer intrudes into  the present.   We can now live in the present unfettered by our history.  The past is past.  Otherwise we can only pretend to live in the here-and-now.  We are still back in the  there and then.   Our past rules  our  lives.  We can  fight it, deny it or suppress it but it  is  still omnipresent and always will be.


  1. I as a patient… and otherwise to… I'm the one who knows what... what I learned about myself... and I am the only one to know what I do… but not why… if I suffer!

    For everything what there is of suffering I protect myself... I have nothing else to do... what so ever? It does not matter what I do... I just do what there is I can do to protect my self.

    “To know is not the same as to feel". To know... and just register sufferings about feelings is a mixture without consciousness… within it... all is possible. I could have learned to be an an academic if that had been possible as a defence aganins suffering... to my "luck" not my case.

    I had no consciousness of being stupid in attempt to live.. stupid is what I learned to be... learned my self to not be aware of the reason... to not feel the reason for protection for my life.

    Even if I under these conditions would have been an academic... it would have been me little Frank... what a struggle.


  2. I relate to some of what you said, especially the little Frank hidden as an academic.

    It's a road I fear even attempting to go down; trying to stay covered with intellect and wit.

    Looking back at Janov's writings always makes me aware of how many little So-and-Sos are out there, protecting themselves with neurotic behavior. As someone who has never even come close to being a patient, it is somewhat frightening to feel like an arrested development will haunt me forever.

  3. 2nd version.
    thank you Art for this article. this is my comment:

    the suffering, you kind of reminded me, can be... meaningful as long as the intrusion and obtrusion are not too strong... the suffering is then a part of getting access. the patient learns to accept the pain even if doesn't know what it is- yet. this is different (better) way of suffering, i think, than suffering while strong first line intrusion is driving patient crazy.. but suffering with trust and (if necessary) a little help from precise medication could be the least damaging and most constructive process that results in the right balance between the pain and repression in present. Suffering then can be perceived as friendly and familiar although unpleasant. Our.Trusted. And then it will lead to primal.

    maybe all we do is trying to achieve this balance where and when we can just simply be. and not run away, hide, struggle.... but as you said, this effort results only in managing the pain from the outside. shutting the voice of it. treating it as an enemy. we like enemies. they make us feel safe because there is an element of "power" and "hope" in it. but no freedom.
    and one thought about the imprint-cortisol correlation. I think that there is a correlation but there is a strong element of suffering that complicates this correlation, I think. the present environment, the strenght of the gates...
    warning: this is a layman's opinion.

    1. Vuko: Let me add one important point: the suffering is greatest, every patient says, just before dropping into a feeling. Once into the feeling the suffering stops. Art

    2. it is important subject for me.
      for anyone with strong intrusion from first line espetially, it is hard to imagine that there is a feeling, that it can be felt gradually, that the suffering doesn't have to be sooo stressful and crazy, that the patient can little by little gain confidence to just be him or her. in right environment even the gates will close a bit, i think, to help control the confusion, the detachment, to help meaningful and open communication with the therapist. but only if CAREFULLY done. everything that is not careful is out of track. to be fully in the moment is the name of the game and "gradually" is the key word in this process i think.
      i sense that it is not only about getting rid of the portion of imprint but also about gaining access. we become more efficient, less lost in our suffering. less in denial. more brave.

  4. On suffering and Pain, today BBC radio four featured a piece on how false memories can be put into people's memory. Of course the whole issue of sexual abuse of children by parents was brought up and dismissed as false memory. It would seem that now the Jimmy Saville scandel is abating, the BBC is indulging in a door closing exercise. Shutting down debate and getting back to normal with everyone repressing stuff but denying they are. Ironically half an hour before there was a feature on the abuse of the UK's drug of choice alcohol with of course no debate about how it is a wonderful anathestic!

    Any false memorys I had were those far less traumatic memories I invented to convince myself I had a happy childhood. Good old Freud identified "masking memories" as a means to hide from trauma and he gave all that up so people most people would take him seriously.

    So depressing!!!!!

  5. Hi Art,
    this very morning I had (once again..) to endure these ugly feelings (?) which flooded me once
    very often throughout the day year in and out...
    My point is : what shall I... do with them ...Till now I only have the option to suffer as You describe it
    or to wait and see...until my system reacts and some relief ensues (like this morning when I got my "marbles together after a shower.

    As You once wrote it is totally unfair that nature doe not gave everybody the ability to Primal without
    going to L.A. (qouting very freely...)
    In the case of body injuries there is often at least this healing power in operation!

    Of topic: does the number of female participants in blog entries reflect the actual number of ladies in

    Yours emanuel

  6. Hi,
    Off topic (but maybe not): Yesterday I handed the keys back to my previous landlord. I'm now in my son's flat on the 11th floor overlooking the city I was born in.

    The last three of Art's Posts: Suffering & Pain, How Repression Works and the Veracity of the Imprint have serendipitously coincided with this move. These and other posts have proven to me just how powerless (will less) I am, particularly in the face of adversity. The 1st line imprints resonate under stress. Here I go again.

    I have survived though. My survival is in part due to being able to reflect openly on this blog with other feeling people. Over a cup of tea early this morning, hoping to learn something from the past, I referred back to Art's posts from previous years.

    In particular for me is 'More on the Imprint' from January 17th 2011.

    I called myself woodygatral then and signed as PG. For me a full circle of learning has occurred: Basically, I'm still my imprint but I have at least got to grips with the grief of my later traumas.

    Consequently, I am able to 'move on' just a little bit. Maybe I could help my son learn to drive, that would be a family milestone.

    Paul G.

    (PS: Perhaps Art could reflect on "managing 1st line intrusion without a therapist whilst reliving 2nd & 3rd line traumas". I could write on that but I'd rather hear from Mr Scrutinizer first).

  7. How the child in us gives itself known!

    rjkingman... take care of your fears... it speaks a language you've been looking for all your life... it's the child in you that speaks its language... if you can be listening! I know it hurts... but it also did... that is the point... it did. We may need help form Janovs center... get it!

    Through your symptoms of fear... you are also the symptoms cause on the track... it is the red thread... the cause of reason!

    The symptom speaks a completely different language than what the symptoms cause doing... it is the tricky bit.... but the intensity is just the same. If you're a lucky guy... "a little boy"... you can hear the tone of your fears... if you need to visit the Center... do it.

    I wish you a good luck.


  8. An email comment:
    "Art, I just want to tell you again how much I appreciate your prolific contributions. It was frustrating to me to hear that you reached out to Antonio Damasio and he did not respond. I've read and re-read Descartes Error and Looking for Spinoza. In my view, his work fully supports Primal, and he doesn't even know it, apparently But I guess it's not really that surprising when we remind ourselves of how much hurt can be contained inside one brain behind iron gates of denial. It would certainly be wonderful if you and your work received the recognition that would make it available to many more people, but, honestly, that seems so unlikely. What IS surprising, really, is that you created the therapy in the first place and have brilliantly articulated the theory. I will be grateful to you for both till my last day."

  9. My lawyer and I appreciates this so much and we wish you well. Keep the faith and stay strong always. Thanks for sharing your story.


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.