Saturday, April 19, 2014

On Dreams and Nightmares

Have you wondered why my patients have less nightmares and have dreams that increasingly become more and more real and present? No?  Oh dear, I had better explain.  What does it mean to dream?  It means that the limbic system is actively processing feelings as it does during the day when we are feeling something. Except at night it is going over feelings from the past and trying to integrate what? Not the dream: the feeling.  It may have been events from way back that were traumatic and could not be integrated at the time.  We were too young and fragile and perhaps non-verbal.  It is a mass of vague sensations and discomfort.  They bubble up when there is not too much external input and put pressure on the neo-cortex to do something with those feelings.  The cortex accommodates and provides images and thoughts.  The limbic system joins the cortex to mount a story to rationalize and  make the feeling coherent. This is what our therapy is about.  Dream processes lay bare the evolutionary path that we must follow in therapy; evolution in reverse.  We do not go straight to the emotional past; we anchor the patient in the present and focus her feelings in the present; from there the brain takes its own piste below.  Ideas, then go to meet their maker; they go to where the feeling is cemented in; where it began.  I dreamed for years about being chased by the Nazis and could not escape. The feeling? My father was unrelenting in his chastisement and would not let up.  He was always after me: sit up straight, don’t talk through your nose, why are you lying around and not doing something useful?  That dream disappeared with those felt feelings.

I could not escape the Nazis because I could not escape the feeling; someone was after me and trying to harm me.  It was never the Nazis; they were only a symbol for my feelings.  See, a symbol for my feelings; and that is how we develop dream symbols; same process.  I never knew it was my father because my system only knew the feelings, not the source.  Until I had a developed cortex I could not know what was wrong.  The feelings predated cognition and were properly registered limbically.  We must pay attention to that evolution when we do therapy:  feelings first, long before our ability to think.  In therapy feelings first, long before insights.  There is no defying evolution.

  So how do we explain this?  The imprints form a prism through which we see the world; they distort reality and give us symbolic dreams.  The first distortion is from our true feelings and then it moves up the neuraxis to the neo-cortex which joins the distortion with ideas.  Hence, “They are out to get me”.  But it is not that just because we dream that they are automatically distorted and symbolic. It is because repression holds back the pain and produces distortions; awake and asleep.  As we experience the imprinted pain and lift the gating force that keeps pain locked away there will be diminished  distortion awake and asleep.  Neurosis is systemic, not sleep determined. We carry it around always. It won’t let go.

Patients have more real dreams because they are more real;  they are less repressed and more open.

And of course we can spot where dreams come from.  First line dreams rarely have elaborate symbols; they are direct and short—“I am stuck in a washing machine and I can’t stop it.”  “I am in a  dark cave and cannot find a light to show me the way out.”  Pre-psychotics are awash in first-line pain and continue to have first-line dreams and frequent delusions.

Second line dreams are more intricate have a more coherent structure, contain some but not a lot of words, but they are more difficult to understand. “ I went to see my old teacher and tried to talk to him but I could not make him understand me.”  The real feeling was, “I could never get through to my parents and could not make them understand me.”

So more direct, non-symbolic dreams is a good index of a patient getting well.  We corroborate with vital signs, cortisol levels, behavior changes and a host of other measures. We get well systemically.


  1. Thanks for the explanation Art. I appreciate your writing about this topic. I think, possibly, dreams come easier and better also, for people having gone through a birth trauma or something like that in the womb, because they are getting primal therapy and they are under your care; seriously. Perhaps they find some sense of a cure getting to them, and some sense of security (possibly even a sense of comfort. I have to work at life; that I know. The nightmares, are bad for some at times. Not everyone does "work at life" and it's hard to have other people understand or even possibly comprehend the person who has gone through a birth trauma (and believe me, it's not even that this "tramatized" person feels as though he or she are "special" or "outstanding" at all; some of the stuff they have to go through....they are just grateful that they are able to participate in this world without it "really " destroying them. Motto: "have strength" ; maybe dreams will be better, maybe one can work at life easier. Thanks Art. I do believe, even though right now, I am not getting any Primal Therapy, that just through your books and your web-site that I am able to obtain some strength.

  2. Hi Art

    I must say I am getting far fewer very symbolic dreams (and more real dreams) than I did which is great. I remember the first time I came across your writings about how dreams are containers for feelings and how much that helped me. Alice Miller's writings often stated that our dreams are veiled dreams about our parents which backed up what you say. I still feel that some symbols in dreams are perhaps directly related to the time of the trauma. If a child cannot speak and experiences life from a child's view point then the adult can have dreams from the child's perspective and experience at the time which can seem odd to the adult if they are not in touch with who they were as a child when the dreams are actually trying to help them do that. As you say that some of your dreams came from a pre verbal period. First line dreams from before birth are going to be very limited in terms of real sensory experience so the noecortex is going to have to work overtime and create some pretty wierd stuff. I do feel that many (though perhaps not all) symbols can be worked out by the person having the dream if they are able to really research their childhood. The symbols in my case often expressed the period and time of a trauma. I used to have a very powerful and terrifying waking dream which was full of symbolism from the time. It expressed my experience of abuse I could not conciously recognise. Serious trauma bursting out of my mind at night. Perhaps this saved me from going crazy at the time. For example I have often have had dreams about falling when I am abroad on holiday. The falling could be in a car over a cliff if I have driven a car that day or standing against a railing and it giving way and me falling. In fact having had that dream recently (while abroad) I woke up and thought "I fell out of my cot when I had been left somewhere by my Parents". I was away from home and fell onto the floor as a toddler. I don't know where as yet but I know it was when I was very young. I am interested to see if I ever have that type of dream again now that I have perhaps recognised the event that caused them.

    A couple of years ago I kept having dreams about being stuck in this oval brick tunnel and seeing other people I knew being able to navigate through and out of the tunnels easily while I felt stuck and trapped. The vertically oval shape is pretty obvious and this was obviously about how I found life difficult to navigate because of a traumatic birth I had not felt and resolved.

    So so fascinating

  3. I know when I was younger, growing up, my dreams were decent. My family always watched me almost to the point of "spying" . Then I got out on my own, the "dating scene" and lived alone. Didn't pay much attention to "working at life" the way my family had taught me, and now realize I shouldn't have "forgotten" or become distracted so at "not to work at life for a while". When I don't "work at life" my dreams are much, much worse, and I find that my distractions just like "snowball." I came out of that way of life, not working at life after about 5 years, and now am much more focused. I realize that when I was growing up, I needed that instruction, although I didn't realize at times that I needed the watching over, the spying. After 5 years of futile living, and not even liking the boy I was dating (just did it, because seemed like all my friends from college and high school were doing it), I realized I should go back to the way I used to be, growing up. I was even more mature I felt when I was 12 than when I was 24; seriously. My upbringing by my Dad was good for me, and all the times my mother worked with me. It's not like I was mentally - challenged or anything like that.....just "a little off", seemingly many times, struggling, frustratingly. So I have realized that the base was a good one, and when I went off it for 5 years, my siblings, couldn't believe nor my parents (it was like I had forgotten distracted away from family). Now I do feel better and my dreams aren't as bad as they were during that "stupid" 5 - year - episode (where I thought I was so grown up, being on my own, but I had more sense in my teen years). People always considered me to be very mature for my age, except for that one 5-year time. Just glad I realized and pulled out of it. Dream/sleep is very important in one's life.

  4. when the truth is too much and too far to know then a symbol takes a place of it.
    boiled egg can never be a chicken but facing death could mean life.
    dreams assure that danger will never get us. the system directed the
    movie and can even wake us up if needed.
    "we don't stop being neurotic during the night". we can't afford it...
    and it is probably totally brilliant - perfect.

    maybe in non symbolic dreams we can see people from child perspective.
    this could be a less filtered view of us and those around us. a useful perspective.

  5. it is interesting how i can't really transfer my dream to anyone. i can say "the concrete
    was turning to stone really fast around me". what does it mean to someone who is
    listening, or even me who tries to explain it ? but it can be more easily transferred as a symbol
    of... hopelessness or strength, or coldness, alienation and the list goes on.......
    and the dream is diluted, the feeling is gone. the truth is forgotten and we are back
    to the beginning of nowhere. next time it maybe will be a cave or a hydraulic garbage truck.
    "lets talk about it". gossip about it. symbols are explainable because they are at the surface and that is why we like them.
    symbols are safe. like a horror movie that we can always stop watching.
    it is easier to transfer calmness because that is often the most appropriate thing to do in our environment.
    the important part of the dream can't be transferred because we are not suppose to live for someone else. this living part is maybe universal but above all it is personal in full meaning of the word. it is part of OUR survival.

    "we anchor the patient in the present..." it is second or third time i read it and this sounds like a very good strategy for those new patients who are awashed in deep pain. i like it. probably a part
    of not skipping steps strategy.

  6. I know what you mean about symbolism in dreams. Several years ago I had an elaborate dream about an Indian Aztec parade. On the main float was an Indian tied to the front leading the parade; but he had no legs, and was just rolling along as part of the float. I awoke and thought how strange this poor person had no control over his situation; had no power of his own--enslaved. Then I realized it was me...but I had thought of myself as a different gender and race. At the time I was living in a situation where I was under the dominance of my mother and there was little I could do about it. I had made fiction out of my life in my symbolic dream. Sheri

  7. Art,
    what is the Primal take on lucid dreaming?? I do this on occasion. It's fascinating (&a little hilarious); I analyse the dream as I'm having it, remarking on aspects of the dream in relation to (what I think) their meaning is, eg: I'll observe (of &in the dream) "O, I didn't realise I felt that way about that". I've done this since I was a child


    1. Jacquie: It sounds like a merger of the top level and lower levels so that there may be easy access among levels; usually a good sign of mental health. art

    2. Thank you Art! Yes, my dreams really do clarify &confirm how strongly I feel about things. (Their creativity/input is so interesting too!). If I can sleep as late as I want, then when I'm dreaming 'current stuff' I know it's time to wake up. xx

  8. Reckless to prove what recklessness protects!

    My dear dear dear friend of knowledge of what humanity has missed all these years you have practiced your therapy... therapy all are looking for without knowing it... but in the greatest need of! Art you are outstanding!

    Jan Åke I have something to tell you... Art is in major need of us outside the primal therapeutic activity only we are taught what it is right... then we're a steamroller to run over everything... for what else are in the area of therapy!

    We are more "ruthless" and it means a lot to prove what science tells of prima therapy... that against those who are ruthless in their way of protecting their own inability... that for something... at some point be for what is right for humanity!

    It is madness to say the right things if the consequence is disastrous and the right things are always wrong for those who feel threatened by it!

    In his madness... many have come a long way ... the only question is when the madness will be tracking on in to the right track!?


  9. Dreams, third line (prefrontal cortex) and feelings.

    A brilliant author, Malcolm Gladwell, has in his book, “Outliers”, written about
    entrepreneurs / inventors, musicians and other implementers of complex specialities. He describes how they by a mix of skill, chance and historical favourable circumstances have been given the opportunity to practice their speciality during a very large number of hours before their breakthrough. He shows convincingly that 10.000 hours of practice is a critical limit for those who have had the capacity and luck to combine their talents with offered opportunities. His examples include some of the great classical composers Mozart and Beethoven, Beatles, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Tiger Woods etc..

    Inspired by Gladwell’s 10.000-hour theory, I made a simple estimate of my own life in the realm between the third line / cortex and my feelings during my trip to demystify my epilepsy and my neuroses. Even if I make a significant assessment of how I spent the treatment time of my epileptic journey, I’m, with ease, achieving 10.000 hours since I, actively, begun my epileptic journey at the Primal Institute, March 1978. Hours, which I have dedicated to emotions, pain (mental and physical), fits, hallucinations, primals and thoughts.

    First my experiences - due to the link between emotion and neocortex - were very fragmented, confusing and uncertain. My, over many years, constantly repeated re-living of my birth trauma has, gradually, become so automated and natural that they have made a deep impression on my dreams, my subconscious, my intuition and my neocortex. Nowadays, it happens, not infrequently, that I, during sleep / dream, bring up a feeling I had, in some connection, the day before.

    A symbolic situation unfolds and brings up a feeling, for example, of fear, which I quickly decide to experience (in the dream). I feel a stab of anxiety that, often, ends in a fit / birth primal in the dream, and when I wake up, I know what it was, during the day, that triggered my repressed emotions. My epileptic stigma / birth trauma influenced so much of my life that I, in order to survive, developed, often skilfully, a variety of neuroses that grew into my life pattern. The neuroses (non-real needs) that are left can still influence my actions, alerting communication between my third line, my prefrontal cortex and my emotions. If I neglect them during the day, the dream and the emotions take care of them at night and my prefrontal cortex helps me to translate (put words on). The translation in my dreams and in my waking state express themselves in an increasingly similar way.

    I have on various occasions expressed my disappointment that I met compact indifference and incomprehension, even from my closest circles, because of my therapeutic involvement and because of the cure of my pain and my new vitality. This I have felt as a sorrow and disappointment equal to the loneliness I had to live with as a child. However, during my journey, I have not been completely lonely. My guide, Art Janov, I met occasionally at retreats around Europe, or I could always rely on getting a letter or email from him, by return mail, when I approached him. The world’s disinterest and lack of understanding may even have been an advantage and a prerequisite for my dedication...

    Art Janov, my neocortex and my feelings have not let me down, and I have trusted them!

    Jan Johnsson

  10. Art, speaking of dreams and nightmares, what do you think of the Oscar Pistorius trial in South Africa? Did he deliberately shoot his girlfriend; or did he have some kind of nighttime fear reaction about an intruder (possibly from childhood)? He is said to be jealous, and likes to shoot guns. And he often vomits when details of her death are discussed in court - seems strange.

    1. Gordon: Your guess is as good as mine. His story sounds a bit fishy. art

    2. Hi,
      Fishy. . .

      I am not particularly well informed, but I am a consumer of BBC documentaries. I saw a documentary about Oscar. Maybe I mistake him for some-one else but the sentiment still remains anyway. Apparently he was gestated with unusual deformities in his lower legs (so I heard from this BBC documentary) . . .He went on to have serious amputations in later childhood. These recommended by his doctors and parents when still a per-adolescent child. Then he went on to become a star athlete with artificial feet.
      He is obviously a sympath with some feelings. I personally don't believe he ever was a complete psycho. It's important to remember he grew up in apartheid/ post apartheid South Africa where psychopathic behaviour is still revered. Gun law, racism, misogeny etc etc.

      As Richard flagged up: what is diagnosis when we really are observing the consequences of gestational traumas: Imprints.

      Was he imprinted to rage at his mother with guns and success on the track? On the track to where? with his poor "amputated legs". . . Was he trying to swim with no feet? There could well be more than one victim here. . . many victims. . .

      Paul G.

    3. Unfortunately Steenkamp stayed in the relationship too long. She saw the warning signs of jealosy, gunplay, and even told him that she was sometimes scared of his reactions to her. And inevitably in the end she copped the worst of it. When the signs are getting negative in a relationship - like boredom, or subtle digs and slights, be it for work, romance, or whatever - it is best to walk away before things develop into larger calamities like trauma, legal battles, or even violence. This is best because although it hurts it gives each person the freedom to move on and find new opportunities. Wouldn't you agree Paul? It's happened to me, what about you? Have people walked away from you; or have you walked away from situations yourself?

    4. Hi Gordon,

      I tried replying to this one several times but your questions have so 'cut to the chase' I could not at first find the right words or answers.

      I feel the new opportunities you refer to could only ever be 'new' if we first return to the illegitimate drives that attracted us to the 'unsustainable relationship' in the first place. Otherwise we are doomed to act out the 'same old, same old' situation with yet another substitute. Same game, new players.

      Unfortunately, intimate relationships resonate with the earliest pains in our lives and so perpetually offer the opportunity to project and deny. All in symbolic form, an ever involving act out:

      My 'ex' said to me in our split: "I'm not your mother" (and surely I felt that truth), but I never had the heart to counter with : " neither am I your sister / mother / father ". . . I just knew she had to go her own way and this would eventually release me too. But the thing is, if in this situation where you are the one who is dumped, you can't be giving your beloved the reason they need to dump you after they have initiated it. For me to tell my ex that she spent 15 years projecting her sister / mother / father onto me would simply fall on deaf ears. . . and that is the reason she dumped me. She could not hear nor see this incredibly obvious (Primal) fact. The single fact her therapist exploited and that is why she blamed me for 'not listening'.

      Without Primal the conflicts that arise from all these 'unmet needs' will continually perpetuate an ever involving need to 'defend and discard' and that is why 50% of all 'marriages' fail. The children get caught in the crossfire.

      Paul G.

  11. for me something so basic and simple as heat during the night (i used thick blanket) seems to be able to trigger intensive and not pleasant dreams and nightmares. heat somehow resonate with first line content probably.... whatever i felt last night it was repetitive... on and on and on... by morning i forgot what was the story, what was the feeling. it was something heavy and slow and persistent. but it faded away.

  12. Hi,
    I have a number of recurring dreams in my life. All of them have evolved. One in particular concerns my family home as a child. Either I am trying to get away from it or back into it or on top of it or around the back of it. . . Last night I returned to this house in a white Mercedes (my fathers car) but the drunken chef tenant of my last house was driving. . . he said he had rented up the top rooms. We had some conversation about how cheap the rent was for the area. . . I was desperate to get back up there for a look. I really 'needed' to get inside. I wondered if my parents were still there and there was a kind of 'lucid' element to that part of the dream. It was as if I was thinking to myself in the dream: "Mmmm, I've been here before and I really must try to get to the bottom/top of it. I woke from the dream at about 5am filled with nostalgia and mixed emotions because this dream was very real and pretty quickly I understood. The city housing department have instructed me to start bidding for properties and I will be able to "Go Home" at last. Only yesterday I was thinking how much more I could achieve for myself if I wasn't 'homeless'. I have had many periods of homelessness in my life. Peripatetic Paul!

    I'm sure this stems from a period when my mother was ill at age two or three when I was sent away to be looked after by a stranger. This is a complete blank. Mum told me: "I was never the same after". If I can retrieve this it will be in or after the three week intensive. And that isn't going to happen until I am settled in a small flat somewhere secure. Somewhere I can have my daughter and grandson come to stay.
    What vuko said about not being able to transfer a dream to others; well indeed because the dream is as likely to be processing a feeling and words seriously compromise those feelings, words are filters in this respect. To be able to use words to impart deep feelings is a great art and very rare. I digress.
    Following on from Jacquies question about lucid dreaming; this idea that dreams become more 'real' the more we retrieve repressed traumas; perhaps also brings those processes closer to the surface. I for one have dreams in the morning close to waking and all the blurb I've read on lucid dreaming seems to tally with the idea of 'continuity'. Thus if one has continuity in one's life one may have more real and lucid dreams which become a genuine aid to healing rather than a (potentially) frightening and 'remote' phenomena with no explanation. . .

    I dunno, I'm no expert.

    Paul G

  13. Hello.

    During a 1st line dream, is there any chance to integrate a feeling?

    I am not talking about the whole feeling; and since 1st line hides massive quantities of pain, that would be impossible.

    I mean if one could chip off a bit of a 1st line trauma and integrate it.


    1. Yannis: Yes if you are ready for first line then of course you can relive a bit at a time and resolve. But the question is, are you ready. art

    2. During the dream, I was crying and feeling pain (I don't remember why). But I (felt that I) didn't want to wake up. And I kept on crying and feeling bad.
      I cannot say how much time passed, but I was repeating the same process in the dream; my body itself tried to stick to the feeling, spontaneously.

      When I woke up, there were no tears on my pillow.

      But I 'll tell you this. For the next 3-4 hours, everything I was doing was Perfect. Either sitting on a chair, eating or preparing for work. There was no flaw...nowhere. There were no good or bad experiences. There were just MY experiences and they were really beautiful!!



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.