Thursday, January 30, 2014

Another Look at Reliving

Let’s go over this again so we can make sure that reliving is important in the therapy for all kinds of neuroses. Neurosis means that there is an early traumatic input that alters function and behavior; not one or the other but both. That is, there is pain and denial of need that overwhelms normal functioning and causes a diversion. We are no longer normal; things go wrong neurologically, biochemically and behaviorally. And of course to cure we need to normalize the whole system, not just behavior or biochemistry.

That in a tiny nutshell is the story of neurosis. We are no longer ourselves; we are re-routed in function. To get back to ourselves we have to re-establish function in every aspect. Not just behavior.

And when we are diverted and rerouted, there are marks that leave their traces; epigenetic marks. For example, if we are loved and hugged and touched a lot there are changes in the brain where methylation patterns are changed. The function of the gene is changed and how we then behave is diverted. The brain has “borrowed” part of the methyl group and produced alterations in how genes are expressed or repressed; shut down or opened up. And this changes us in profound ways. Our personality becomes different; we can be more open or closed off; more depressed or anxious depending on what genes do what. But it is not genetic; it is epigenetic, how life impacts us. How experienced changes us. It is not just in the genes; it is in experience. Don’t go looking at the genes alone; it is not there. They are the result of experience.

Now those marks or traces are embedded and can follow us throughout life. They form the substrate on how further experience impacts us. So with lots of love we have a different system than a deficit amount of love. And a different brain. And a different focus and attention span. All this right after birth. And it can spell a chronically aggressive or passive baby and child. The difference between a heavily allergic child who spends her life in emergency rooms, and a normal child. Above all, it sets the stage for a child who does well in school and another who fails. You mean all this from events in life before birth? Exactly. Love means altering those immune cells and making them stronger. No love means the opposite.

OK so now we have those marks, methylation which foretells of a life to come and how it will be lived. How do we change all that? We need to revisit those early experiences, those without words, go back and redo them. Change history and their traces. We need to undo the damage and that means slowly demethylizing. One experience at a time; or one experience over many times. We need to find how the system was detoured and put it back on track, literally. This happened because pain installed itself and forced change. A mother who was on coffee or who was constantly on tranquilizers changes the baby’s system. He cannot slow down because the anxious carrying mother has caused a more speedy system in her offspring. And this can be measured; the amount of methylation can be observed and changed. That is meaningful progress. It informs us about altering neuroses. And when allergies disappear we have supporting data. And when sexual deviation goes away we have even more key data. And above all, when the telomeres lengthen and we live longer that is critical information. Neurosis, in short, is a global affair, not just one behavior or one symptom.

But isn’t this what medicine today is about? Lowering blood pressure, giving allergy medication. Restructuring behavior. It is called “whack-a-mole.” Every time a symptom shows up just whack it back.
And don’t ask where it all came from? It is obviously a “brain disease.” Experience takes a back seat as we slither down into the depths and minutia of the brain seeking answers that do not exist there and never will.

But we are the dealers in experience because we have seen what experience does to us, especially very early pre-verbal experience. If one sees one Primal one knows for all time how crucial experience is in the scheme of things. It is rarely a brain disease; that is concocted by those who fiddle around in neurons and synapses and do not see the brain reacting to experience. If we leave out experience we are bereft of what can give us answers. We see only the end result and miss half of the puzzle. It is like looking at diabetics and never know what they eat. If we leave out the first three years in an orphanage can you wonder that we can never know what the matter is. Thinking it is a brain disease is the result of another more serious disease: solipsism.


  1. Hi,

    I had to look up solipsism on wikepedia to re-mind myself of what it means. . .

    Interestingly it says that some child development experts believe that infants are solipsists. . .

    Which sort of makes sense, in a way. In so far as these brain experts are still thinking in an infantile way. . .

    Paul G.

    1. Hi,
      -thinking in an infantile way-, so, a solipsist would not know they are a solipsist or thinking solipsistically. . . Nor would they be able to re-phrase a description of their point of view as 'ego-centric' or self centered. They just 'assume'. . .

      I was like this once. I don't think changing the way one thinks will make one less solipsistic either. I mean, what motive is there to become less solipsistic anyway? There could be no motive for that. At least not an intellectual motive. That is what is so frustrating about people who are still highly governed by their imprints.

      I intuit (but don't know for sure) that the relatively un hurt child with few traumas has 'normal' empathy and feelings and this limbic ability co-joins with the developing neo-cortex to produce child like consciousness. Child like consciousness is playful and co-opperative; it wants to integrate and fathom other peoples reality because that is the spice of life. That is what makes relating interesting and rewarding. That is what we mean by "give and take" in relating.

      But I don't think we can get there from thinking. That would be like Cognitive Behaviour Modification. . . It would be another set of rules by which ones feelings get compartmentalised.

      The only thing that has helped reduce my own 'solipsism' is contacting my feelings. I havn't learned to become less ego centric, I have been able to become more feeling and that has resulted in more empathy and more consciousness.
      But this increase in empathy goes completely un-noticed by those who are (obviously) still wholly stuck in their own solipsism. This is why Primal is such a tricky thing in ordinary life.
      It's a continual source of pain for me that the New Age therapy crowd I used to believe I belonged to (as if it were a community) has totally missed the target of true feelings. Yesterday I had a lecture from one who reminded me that all my families problems are to do with my family only but everything is connected (except him and his New Age community of course). . . I lost my temper before he reminded me it was probably all my karma too (I could see that one coming on the 'lecture horizon') . I think I was trying to save him from his own solipsism by giving him the reason he needed to keep his "OK" family distanced from my "NOT OK" family. He made yet another weak offer to intervene with my poor sick son, now totally abandoned by every one except me.

      It won't do any good because these new agers are up against serious mental health problems and no amount of cheer leading will help my poor son.

      So, increased empathy has not made me any less prickly in the face of other peoples solipsism.

      I think a few prickles are needed to keep their assumptions at bay. Lest they walk all over us and then complain we're not a good enough door mat. Or try to use us as a canvas to paint their ideas on.

      Paul G.

  2. An Insider-look at Reliving

    Having read the Reflection (Another Look at Reliving) and having been guided by the Primal Principles / Evolution in Reverse, during 40 years, I couldn’t ask for a more accurate description of how I have experienced and understood that the early traumatic input influenced my function and behavior. Since I’m not only a neurotic but also an epileptic, I can underline your statement “It is rarely a brain disease; that is concocted by those who fiddle around in neurons and synapses and do not see the brain reacting to experiences”.

    However, modern medicine has to whack “the very early pre-verbal experiences” back. They have to make the world spin around. For millions if not billions of patients the symptoms / serious diseases like allergies, high blood pressure, cancer etc., etc. is a reality. They have no time to ask “why”. Their pain and their social, political, religious and economical influences are setting the priority lists for science and the scientists. This tremendously accumulated force, which you so persistently criticize, is propelled by evolution.

    Your position is the intuitive, brilliant outsider, who sometimes tell about how The Primal Therapy can cure pre-verbal experiences. Sometimes you speak of a flawless development from life before birth, in a world full of people with neuroses, sufferings and often with a shortened life-span. The sufferers need immediate help for their symptoms, and you cannot / don’t want to multiply your therapeutic relief efforts. What is the short-term alternative since you reject the scientists’ efforts?

    Fortunately there is a growing group of young people who follow both their instincts and the message of love, touch and attention to the children they put in the world. Research will catch up and, eventually, develop methods to measure, describe / define your intuitive knowing how experience changes us. And I suppose that is what you are after!

    Jan Johnsson

  3. These brain experts do not think in an infantile way, in fact they are the very opposite. Infantile thoughts are open-ended, reaching out for more information, desperately trying to make sense of anything and everything. You won't find an infant lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, thoughtfully denying the existence of everything other than his own experience. That would be ridiculous wouldn't it? Newborn babies are wired to receive people, to feel people, to be with people and to know that people are real -- no need for intellectual confirmation. Paul, how many adults are solipsistic, egoistic, egotistic, pedophilic, bisexual, prejudiced, evil and harmful? Most adults are all of the above.... right? Of course they are. But don't attack! When you belittle adults they stop listening. Provocativeness does not work. We must reach out to the brain experts with open-ended thoughts. We must ask for their guidance, and offer them ours. I remember when Art said to Walden (one of this website's readers) "I need you to keep me on track" (or something like that). I thought that was a good approach but Walden didn't buy it. Why not? Because he is solipsistic? Because he doesn't know what it feels like to be heard, understood, respected, valued, cherished? We must cooperate with the brain experts as much as we can until they believe in the existence of selfless cooperation.

    1. Hi Richard,

      I'm not sure what you mean. I feel that when a child development expert says infants think solipsistically then I know exactly what s/he means because I have observed small infants gain the ability to "reason". This time around with my grandson I have noticed that he doesn't know and must always assume directly, unless he is relaxed enough to ask "why"?

      So, because the child (up to three yrs) needs guidance under relaxed conditions, parents and carers must interact by playing with them. Through play the childs more or less complete limbic system therefore gets to express itself through it's developing neo-cortex. The parents offer the 'boundaries' externally and the child offers hir feelings from inside hirself and the result, hopefully, is increased consciousness (for all concerned). Hopefully this manifests itself as increased skill, empathy and inquiry in the child. This is not 'thoughts' but conscious ability (ie: feelings plus integrated thoughts leading to greater ability).
      On the other hand if the parents and carers continually frustrate and neglect to play with the child then the child's developing neo-cortex begins developing separately from hir feeling limbic system. Consequently these 'thoughts' become ego-centric as a defense against further pain from the continual frustration of needs to integrate with others and the environment.

      So, solipsism is really a belief system / philosophy that has grown separately, all alone because that's what happens when you are neglected during the critical period. Your thinking brain becomes cut off.

      Inside of solipsism therefore you find unresolved narcissism, conceit, vanity, false pride and all the defenses we begin to 'need' in place of connected feelings. Then you can adopt all sorts of belief systems to fashion to fill up that dis-connected space we call our brain. Anything will do as long as it fills up the void.

      I sense that when Art talks about the disease of solipsism he particularly means the way all the above results in us adults being predictably cut off from each other in a world of lonely but ego-centric individualism.

      It's this the capitalists can exploit and actually do promote because after all: "If You Don't Look After Your Self, Who Will" ? It's divide and rule from thence on.


      Paul G.

  4. An email comment: "I read and absorb all your articles, but then for many years (1973 to be exact) I have been a total convert to the Primal principles.

    The titles of this particular article excited me thinking, hoping, there would be some more details about the very nature of re-living ... as opposed to remembering.

    Alas, I did find that this article did not stress exactly what a reliving experience was ... particularly with respect to what most of us see as just re-membering.

    I have been trying to tell many (perhaps with futility), and I was hoping this article might offer me a new way to point this out. I talked to my cardiologist only yesterday ... who is being forced to retire next month since he reaches 65 shortly. I offered to send him my book "Feeling Therapy: Real Health: Yourself" and he showed some interest to read it. Not sure if it will get through to him, after so many years in conventional medicine ... but he has been very impressed by my progress after having clogged arteries and suffering "intermittent claudication" especially in my legs, and two years ago having a "stent" inserted in my heart.

    I am convinced my proclivity to feel and express my feeling deeply has improved my health considerably, now being in my 82nd year of life.

    I hope my responses to you act in some sense as an inspiration to you in one form or another. I sure am a great fan of yours and have been, since reading "The Primal Scream" in 1973 ... then making it to The Institute in 1981.

    I never got to see you doing therapy, since you left before I got that chance ... I was disappointed.

    Sincerely Jack"

  5. Hi Art,

    off topic but who is Franklin Wenham ?

    Paul G.

  6. Hi Art,
    just yesterday I had the "opportunity"? of reliving ...BUT there was no Therapist near by!
    A woman walking over a railway bridge and -stinking of beer -talked to me about the
    disbehaviour of her husband ,who left her several minutes ago with a typical psychopathic
    remark (like my father usuall did to my suffering mother,

    Immediately I was plunged in all the agonies of MY feeling with mother,friend and that lady
    and tried my bestß to help Her verbally...
    and had to pay the price :depression, panic desperation and the like "asall those years aga2
    (song by george harrison from Beatles)

    The primal chain... to underlying first line Pains ... would be interesting to follow.. but
    I needed several hours to recuperate from this event -without solving anything ...besides this

    You remark decades ago -"it is totally fascistic/unfair ..that relentless hibernating of Pains in our sytem" comes in it`s full lucidity to my mind.
    Yours emanuel

  7. I read, as always with great interest your writings. I would like to address something I think to be of utmost importance. I have been active in "feeling" second line for over 30 years with 1st line intrusion and limited 1st line resolutions. I have experienced 1st line ( gagging and the feeling of dying without oxygen ) since I began therapy (and more so in the last 10 years ) but usually when triggered in stressful present day situations or life experiences. All of this leaves me to conclude that being in my early 60's, I will more than likely continue this pattern if I am lucky enough to live an even longer life. I more than likely will die then without having resolved my birth trauma except in what would be short, brief 1st line "feelings' that conclude primals starting down the chain of pain from whatever trigger occurs in the present. I would suggest it would be important for you to address the realities of this in your writings.
    I don't say this to negate how important and life saving your work is but you should also include what the realities of actually doing this therapy means for those of us who have lived most of our adult lives as active primalers. In reality I do not wish to live immersed in 1st line and though theoretically I know if I were to be immersed in it and "get through" those early traumas ( 1st line statement ) I would obviously benefit greatly.
    I believe the importance of having never felt love (or not enough of it or otherwise we couldn't be here ) or having been physically abused and all of what happened to us on the 2nd line is (at least for me) more of the reality of what to expect from therapy and again I can only speak for myself. Obviously, our defenses and how they are laid down are critical in access to our pain. I think it would be important for you you talk more about these realities for those coming to do therapy and what realistic expectations people should have. I would be greatly interested in your thoughts on this. In conclusion, let me say that without your life saving therapy, I wouldn't be here to write this.

  8. Art: If you wish you can fix the typo where I repeat the word "you" to "to"

    I think it would be important for you you talk more about these realities for those coming to do therapy and what realistic expectations people should have.

    1. Anonymous: I cannot write what to expect since every patient is different and gets different results at different times. art

  9. A psychology professor at Stanford University is about to change the world with this breakthrough on the science of stress.

    This Ted Talk video has already had over 700,000 views. People love this stuff!

    How did we miss this breakthrough?! Wink…wink. ;-)


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.