Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Mystery Known as Depression

This article published in the Journal for Neurocognitive Research of the World Psychiatric Association (Activitas Nervosa Superior).
Read the full text at: (available as a pdf).

Here is the abstract:

"This opinion article presents the result of years of observation of depressive patients. It is a report on their treatment while undergoing a feeling therapy that deals with reliving past imprinted trauma in context of new research in neurology and biology. The underlying premise is that early traumatic events, including the time in the womb and at birth, leave an imprint aided by epigenetic methylation that endures and comes to dominate our lives. It later accounts for serious ailments and the imprint plays a role in our behavior, interests and attitudes. Through a feeling psychotherapy that allows patients to relive their traumatic history might be possible to found a way to make profound changes in depression. "


  1. Hi Art

    A wonderful piece of writing from which I learned a great deal.

  2. I don't really get depression very badly any longer. 3 or 4 years ago my whole body was wracked with it. I could hardly move as I felt every step was like wading through treacle. I had been reading your books by then so decided to use all these symptoms as my friends. These symptoms were telling me something about my past. Why fight those symptoms when what I needed to do was understand them and feel them.

  3. It is interesting that you state that should a depressive be given a new job for example he will throw himself into his work. He will be happy for those moments when his work made him happy. This tends to back up Alice Miller's statement in Drama of being a Child where she states that her experience is that those who are manic depressive had the great weight of a failed family placed upon their shoulders. These people would only be loved when they are successful rather than for themselves. Thus if they fail in their work they plunge into deep depression. Obviously Miller did not research much about birth though I am sure she would have been open to your theories. Obviously if a Mother has rejected a child while still in the womb that swing between depression and mania would be very deep. Such damage can run deep. I was told that my christian name was chosen because it would look good in neon. The weight that lifted from my shoulders when I felt the significance of that emotional pressure was incredible.

  4. Art,
    some no oftentimes.. I want To urge -better put"force" ...Your detractors and ignorers!!
    to read this (and the other papers) -but I fear their tenuity and ...
    will prevent them to look (like those Guys who refused to look when Gallileo urged them..
    Yours emanuel

  5. Art: I read your article this morning (speed reading) and certainly will read it some more times (carefully). I really hope that many peers in your field will do the same and learn more about this state “depression”, especially that it is closely connected with early trauma and its repression. “The Mystery Known As Depression” is a great pioneering paper – spontaneously I would presume it’s the best article that has ever been published in Activitas Nervosa Superior.

    Recently I came across a German online paper about stress (
    that describes chronic depression as a state of chronic sympathetic nervous system (SNS) – activation, which means in detail (no complete listing, only a sample):

    Increase of heart rate and blood pressure, elevated tonus of arteries, elevated heart work. Furthermore the flexibility of heart rate and thus adaption to changing circumstances seems to be affected. Moreover, blood cortisol is chronically elevated, thus promoting changes that lead to a higher risk of arteriosclerosis. All in all – and this is the result of some studies - the risk for cardiovascular disease is described as substantially increased in chronic depression.

    No doubt the system is under heavy attack and presumably the only way to solve this problem durably is to get rid of the aggressor – to go down the chain of pain and relive early trauma.

    You also say in your paper that early trauma/imprinting is closely connected with epigenetic changes in a person. In this context I’d like to mention a study conducted by Dr. Dean Ornish, Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn and others. I came across this study in the “study section” of a very professional website (in 11 languages) promoting vegan nutrition ( The study was published in The Lancet Oncology (volume 14, issue 11, pages 1112-1120, Oct. 2013) and is reported about on this website:

    The highlight of this study: A relatively simple change in current lifestyle factors (a vegan diet based on whole plant food instead of meat, milk, eggs and sugar, a little bit of bodily exercises every day, practizing some relaxation techniques and going to stress-reduction group sessions) resulted in significantly longer telomeres (5 years later) and changes of gene expression on 500 genes, “in every case in a beneficial way” (Dr. Ornish).

    So if even such a relatively simple thing like a change of current lifestyle factors results in such a friendly reaction of our genes – what would then be the effect on our genes if we could combine a change of our toxic lifestyle habits with a primal therapy journey where we could get rid of early trauma and pain? We certainly would have the most friendly and benevolent genes and telomeres the world has ever seen.

    1. the question is: how to make lifestyle changes an not block the primal process?
      so the primal process can support the lifestyle changes.
      the answer could be self-regulation in safe environment. environment that includes
      interesting books that can help the patient to experiment if he/she feels to.
      lifestyle is so many things. and the application of them ideally shouldn't be too stressful.
      it would be interesting to read all the lifestyle changes over the years in primal patients.

    2. Vuko: that is a very good idea and I need to make a book on it. Art

  6. A facebook comment: "He's brilliant and a very good writer. After I finish reading it, I will post
    it on my wall. So far, it's the best thing I've ever read on the topic of

  7. i just think how indefinitely beautiful is the opportunity to talk about what is bugging you.
    with someone who is indefinite and speak the language of indefinite, of the unpredictable..
    someone who can absorb whatever there is. whatever you can't escape from.
    to make the present moment important and full.
    no limits, no force, just freedom. to finally move and explore.
    that is the science. even if we don't know how to write,
    don't know how to teach, don't know how to explain it to anyone.
    it is the science of survival. of fast, precise, just appropriate reactions
    in ever changing natural environment. love is the connection with
    the elements of life. knowing how to recognize them. the science
    that is as old as the universe. technology is just the tip of it.
    or it is an island away from it?

    what is the use of written wisdom? fascination?
    i used to get involved watching movies. but then it was the name of
    the actor, director of photography or the message of the movie that
    became more and more important. i started to think more.maybe i
    got too much involved in the first place. thoughts are not there to
    replace the experience but to enrich, encompass many of them.
    to help us learn on different level. i think that we integrate with all of us
    but whenever we understand it is the extra quality of integration.
    it is the peace of wisdom. the tip of science. not an island away
    from it.


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.