Monday, July 21, 2014

On Primal Memory

 I think that Primal memory is of a different order of being from just plain cerebral memory.  When I go back to my childhood and earlier, I am always amazed at the clarity and purity of my memory.  Even with ninety years of experience it is if nothing ever happened to change or moderate that memory.    I wrote recently about the lady who cared for a young lion and then put him in a shelter.  She came back five years later and when the lion saw her he draped his arms over her and kissed and hugged her.  And I had a Primal.  It was the love I never had.  The Primal began with no one was ever happy to see me (the lion seemed to be in ecstasy), then moved on to a scene where I was home and my parents never looked at me or talked to me and suddenly I felt the need……hold me, cherish me, tell me you love me…….and on and on……….the pain of no love which I was never able to articulate because I never knew about love.  Until you get a smidgen of it, you cannot imagine what love is about.  When I was a bit more open to my feelings and saw a film, Brief Encounter, I began to see about love, and I began to realize what I missed. Just to be hugged was such a revelation when I first saw it.  But the point is that I was transported back to that lonely experience where every drape, chair and pillow was so, so clear.  Every facial expression of my parents was so ,evident…. No life there.  No emotion, no sign of caring.
 I felt like I landed on a foreign land but actually it was just a hidden one.  Hidden because the memory was too painful to be faced abruptly.  But once I got there, it all seemed so familiar.  I saw it with new eyes, new awareness and a new perspective.  I saw it.  And oh my, it hurt.  That hurt kept me from seeing it. I mean how can you be acutely aware that the rest of your life at home will be loveless?  How can a young kid accept that?

 And when I make a pit-stop at my childhood, feelings take me down to the gestational period and I relive a birth trauma where I cannot open my mouth no matter how much I want to in order to get some air.
 That experience with no words is also pure and untrammeled by later experience; it is like nothing else ever happened. And because it is so early it is imprinted for a lifetime.  It makes us act it out.  Never comfortable with a low roof over my head,  never have any blanket over my head, panic when someone pretends to choke me, and I had to get out every morning for coffee in order to come back and feel relaxed.  I  “got out” at last.  Getting out in the morning was my act-out.  There are many, many others who have to get out and go, traveling all the time, making dates, having projects never relaxing.  All the same act out.  And if you tell those people who cannot stop traveling what they are doing they would be insulted and think you are nuts.  That is because the feeling is bound inside the act-out and drives it.  It is hidden through the act-out; i.e., getting out.  It is the logic of the imprint and forces us to behave in certain ways.  I had to go to a café  each morning for years, never knowing why.
 Worse, never knowing I was being driven by a memory 80-90 years old.  Imagine!  Yet when we open up the system the driving, imprinted memory just sits there waiting its turn to see the light.  It doesn’t just sit there; it gnaws away at the system for years and years.  When the cover is taken off, when we literally open the gates it can breathe life again and react as it should have years before.  So when I say, I feel liberated, it is exactly the case.  That memory has never ever changed.  There is a purity about it that is unequaled.  And when I come out of it, there is a great wonder about life and the brain.  A wonder how Primal memory never leaves us ……….until we experience it.  Then we have a normal memory shorn of its powerful impact of pain.  With a Primal reliving, the lower memory then climbs the ladder of the brain to a cortical area where the memory is kept.  It is not longer hidden and out of reach.

 Why hasn’t it changed?  Because it is life saving; the act out is a constant reminder of what we must do to live normally.  We must never take it away from the patient until she is ready because it is crucial to our survival.  The act out, which we do time and time again is talking to us, but sadly we cannot hear it.  Every day, in every way, it explains what we are doing and what is behind it but we turn a deaf ear.  So we go on interrupting cause we cannot wait…… back then…………now transposed to the present.  If we can learn about our act-out we will discover intellectually, what the early imprint is about. It is right there all of the time whispering ever so softly as if it does not want to be heard before we are ready for it.  It says to us,  “you interrupt because you could not get out of the womb easily; so to wait means death is lurking.  And it has such an urgency that we interrupt.  We have to get those words out.  When we reliving getting out, it all becomes clear as lower level memories join with their cortical counterpart to make sense of it all. I use this example because impulsive patients almost always have this experience; not my interpretation of it, but because I observe.

 When we do experience it, even pre-verbally, afterwards, it wends its way upward to offer us insights of what it was and how it drove us.  The higher level cortex now explains it all for us and helps make sense of its power.

 This process should never defy evolution and occur with intellect first with its cerebral insights, and then feeling.  It must always be in the order of the development  of the brain—feelings first followed by insights.  Those intellectual insights can never be curative without feelings preceding them.  Careful, obey the laws of evolution because they are rather strict laws.


  1. Dear Art,

    I guess you are the embodiment of of primal therapy lengthening ones life, by being able to rid oneself of terrible pain right up to reliving events now, that go back 90 years. My grandmother who I loved and who loved me unconditionally lived just one month short of being 101 herself. Considering she was a refugee wiith my mother and uncle as two small children, and survived all turbulences of World War 1 and 2 it is amazing!! But it was also lonely for my grandmother when she got older because she survived and lost all of her friends, some who died 30 ago. I wanted to ask you since you posted a while ago, that you had undertaken stemcell therapy. Did it work for you? Did it rejuvenate you physically? My mother tried a stemcell therapy in Germany in 2008 but we had no result. The Center in Duesseldorf/Cologne has since been closed by the German authorities. I see the main problem in life is as we get older and really develop into personalities our bodies go the other way and need more and more maintenance. Alot of real intelligence dies and cannot be replaced by,the next generation. It is a shame!


    1. Eddy: I hope what you say is true. It seems that most of my friends have died or are very sick. I have never been sick except for the botched throat surgery I had decades ago. I am doing stem cell therapy in southern California and it is helping. Not curing but a great help. Who are the people in Germany who were closed down? art

  2. I pose the question then as to why most social workers and care workers totally forbid children and their natural parents to express any human love when the children are in corporate "care"?
    No hugging allowed, No saying I love you, etc.
    I have witnessed this in Ireland and UK especially.
    Then the children grow to believe their parents do not love them and often regress terribly.

    1. Hi Anonymous,

      I have tried (in vain) to refrain from responding to this post of yours because what you say IS the living nightmare for me, my son and my grandson in care at the moment.

      But what you say is only one part of the story.

      For the children to be able to be put into a 'new family' there has to be a willing 'collusion' all around. Thus the only way to achieve this is through an act of enforced BEHAVIOURAL modification.

      In this Coup D'etat by those who push pens for the moral majority (who 'care not' to care for those 'disadvantaged' in society), well, they have the job of agent to delegate the care of those disadvantaged to those who do care. But to get this care 'instated', well, they have to pay other 'carers' top do it. . . Thus the MEANS only goes to those who are not the birth parents, THUS the birth parents go from poverty to MARGINALISATION.

      This way the terror of UNLOVED children can be avoided by the moral majority who pay taxes to get the PROBLEM out of sight Aaaand to keep the problem out of sight. . .

      OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND. . . OUT OF MIND, OUT OF FEELINGS and out of the question. . .

      Coup D'etat.

      Paul G.

  3. What a powerful trigger.
    I need to cream… but can’t open my mouth.
    Danger… but I can’t run away…. I’m stuck.
    Nobody is protecting me, nobody helps me.
    Later feelings: mother, father DON’T touch me, your touch hurts me, you smell bad, I gag, nearly vomit.
    WHY?????… no answer, I can’t find a connection, no words for what I feel.
    Thanks Dr. Janov. Sieglinde

  4. Hi,

    I am also obsessed with 'getting out'. . . I am always trying to be responsible for it too. I used to be a terrible interrupter. . . I think I got better at listening since I started crying a lot. I think I was drugged at birth, on the way out and also obstructed. . . I can easily get into a 'headbanging' state around procrastinators.
    But now I'm the hesitant one, trying to find all my 'marbles' and my wallet and my keys and my pocket knife and my compass so that I properly prepared to get out. . .

    I'm fed up of it.

    Paul G.

  5. Too hard, much too hard. "Tough Love" many times is what they were doing, or maybe it was just plain cold-heartedness. To me, this kind of love, never, ever gets me anywhere....even if am on the receiving end of it , (and I really have never given anyone tough love, except myself) My parents, as I was growing up, always showed me a kind love, but definitely wasn't spoiled. I can't say I believe in "tough love" or cold heartedness; unless one is dealing with a something they just absolultely couldn't possibly handle which I sincerely doubt that many parents have that problem if they really try. The act - out, I have no idea where I would be without it. There was a short phase where I didn't act-out; people noticed this, and knew and brought it to my attention that I would survive better if I did "act-out". To me, it is like breathing. It gives me , sure many times, false hopes and dreams, but it is a side that is healthy for me; especially nowadays in dealing with todays world. For a short time, I had gone out with a man who never did an "act out" and I only went out with him because , sure in the beginning he was somewhat of a friend, but only went out because I was on the rebound and just wanted to show my ex that I had a "new love (yeah, right)". It wasn't love on my part at all, but possibly thought it was because I had dropped or forgotten to "act out". Fortunately for me, it didn't last. Now I am better. But if my parents and grandparents hadn't given me such a "good foundation", my act outs wouldn't be as good as they are, I wouldn't have been able to really deal with many many things in life. I know I have to many times, look back in my life, how I was loved by my family growing up, and remember that feeling I order for me to deal with the manycold hearted people in the world of today; in the working world I am in. A couple of people (actually supervisors), I have at work, actually told me that I didn't have to "deal with this one " somewhat supervisor"; so I don't. They know this person is cruel and coldhearted. Many people just don't want to deal with him, and I feel better knowing that 2 supervisors over him, told me that I didn't have to go to him about anything. Of course many people feel this way about this cold hearted person (who is now after 10 years or so of being nasty has been trying the past 2 years to change his reputation.). Anyway, I am thank ful for the support from my Dad, and for what my mother had to endure as I was growing up. Possibly, without act-out and love and support from family, I might be a totally different person.....much more frustrated, have more physical issues, etc. Life is hard enough, and anyone who has parents who were just totally loveless, cold hearted, surely has an excellent mind. A mind that is strong and almost along the lines of a genius, in order to grow up "normal" , in order to have good mental health, in order to have good social skills, in order to have a loving wife or husband, and possibly create a loving family;

  6. To withstand that kind of childhood without loving parents, one must give themselves great credit. To me, it is a great accomplishment. Sometimes I think a boy growing up can deal with loveless, coldhearted parents better than a girl, but who knows....I do know that it is not a good situation for children growing up at all with that type of parenting; very sad. The act-out, saves lives; that is one thing I know I will have with me, of course only somewhat, until I can get some primal therapy. True, very true, the act out does disappear many times, but it does appear to me, now; every now and then. It is important. What is it that the parental support is no longer exists....I have to concentrate sometimes on the past, concentrate on how it was for me growing up, and remember; I have to "carry on" , have strength, and that it is me seeking peace of mind and kindness. ...they say (kind people): "What comes around , goes around." One would think this nation would be kinder to one another. I don't know. I can't forget to act-out nor can I even possibly give up on it, even if it isn't foremost on my mind. When I didn't "act-out" I was absolutely "no good" for myself. One cannot forget help another one has to be strong, make oneself stronger and seek piece of mind and intellect somewhere now.

  7. Art, I like it when you write like this. It just seems more real.

  8. Yes ... yes ... yes ... yes ... yes ... yes ... yes ... yes, what a hell life is without not feeling it. So easy to understand but so hard to feel. We misunderstands by not perceiving the emotions importance and a professor of psychiatry who taught differently without awareness of it... what threat he is to all needy!


  9. Elegantly put. So helpful sharing your personal story. Makes me not feel so strange when I see the dresses I wore in 7th grade--as if a hypnotist had taken me back; but am simply being in a past feeling of 50 years ago about my mom. Sheri

  10. No comments are here....why, because possibly, Dr. Janov feels as though no one could relate to such lack of love, and this is the only way it could be expressed. The damage that was done, can't be repaired....but the person that was created, what he created, himself, is "awesome win". The parents were at such a loss not to recognize what was created in front of their very eyes. Some things can't be repaired, some things one cannot get over, I know. It's too bad, but one must "carry on" in this world, and most people just don't realize; and if they do, they just want to hurt more, because they are suffering. To overcome a childhood without a loving foundation, to me, is a great that one knows they can rely upon themselves. Any amount of what I say right now, I know is just "futile". My own father was unloved by his mother, and his father had died when he was 10. He overcame a lot was mentally and physically very strong, survived and was a very successful man; overcoming a lot; he was a very kind, funny man.

  11. Sure I am Dad came out o.k. as Dr. Janov is a success. Others, such as my Dad's sister, didn't she blamed her Mother for her problems with alcohol and now is a "reformed" alcoholic, but just a couple of years ago went back to it. It has affected her so badly physically. My Dad watched over her , tried to help her the best way....but really the rehab places took charge. She is "somewhat" better and has 2 children of her own; she is divorced. My father's brother, has a lot of money , had a family but "cut - off" 2 of his sons due to money issues, and wouldn't even say "goodbye" to his dying son last year. He had left his first wife who had all 4 of his children, for a younger woman who he is with now. I guess my Uncle is "happy" he won't have anything to do with his alcohlic sister for over 25 years; but my Dad always had a heart; especially when he saw a person in need. My Dad was very "humanistic". I don't know; I try to help, I know all this is absolutely "futile".

  12. Exactly! In primals my memories can be amazingly clear and pure, indescribably rich in detail and texture, palpable and real in a qualitatively different way than when I remember this morning or yesterday or last weekend. It is of a different order and I wonder if it isn't the valence of the feeling experience and ultimately the survival aspect of it that makes it so.


  13. An email comment:
    Art, an especially cogent post. thank you!

  14. A facebook comment:
    My name is Rudy. I am a current patient at your center, and a big fan of your work. I've read just about all of your books. I recently started a FB group for current and former patients of the center as well so that we would have an easy way to connect with one another. (Groups name is Primal Patients) .I originally came to your center at the age of 17 for about a year. I had quite a bit of trouble during that time accessing feelings however, as I was still living with my mother and I was young and overwhelmed. But I recently restarted therapy with David Lassoff in March and am happy to say I am making a lot of progress now. I can't thank you enough for all your hard work, research, and commitment to this therapy. There were many feelings holding me back when I first came, and I regret never having introduced myself to you back then. But I wanted to just take a moment now to do that, and again thank you for everything. I also wanted to share a video with you that I just saw today on

    I thought it was very interesting and provides good evidence of cellular intelligence and memory. I am thrilled at the speed of emerging evidence now being discovered and shared through the internet. I really believe we are in a renaissance period, that will enable us to create incredible change for the better. I frequent TED, and have often wondered why you have not yet had your chance to speak there. I think of all people, you deserve to present your work.

    I any case I will keep this brief. I just had one last thing to share. I recently finished Life Before Birth and saw the Questionnaire in the back of the book. I thought "this is great" but that you could probably collect more data if Questionnaire has greater exposure. So I made an online form using Google Forms. See here :

    It's basic but clean and easy to use, and makes it very simple to collect the data. There are so many fantastic tools at our disposal, that are extremely accessible, and it's had me thinking I would like to be able to help the center in any way I can. I also know I have a very large feeling attached to this desire....haha....but I know I will feel that in time. But I wanted to reach out and let you know that I am one of your biggest advocates and would gladly do my part to help inform others about your brilliant work. If you have any ideas, suggestions, or requests ,or even just want to tell me to cease and desist (haha) please let me know. It would be my honor in any case.

    Thank You For Everything

  15. What is your reality? Your reality is everyone's reality; it is everything that is happening here and now. Cognitive therapists want you to intellectualize everything that is happening here and now.

    What is your perception of reality? Your perception of reality is a primitive but life-saving delusion based on EXPECTATION. This delusional expectation comes primarily from your lizard brain - your lizard brain was the FIRST one to learn what to EXPECT. Your higher brains will always listen to the lizard first - that is what they are genetically designed to do -- there is no escaping it -- you cannot escape your first-line expectation.... you cannot escape the delusion. your higher brains will listen to your delusion, and then they will listen to your reality. They will combine the two to create a holistic interpretation; a mixture of reality and delusion... but it will seem like a perfectly seamless view of reality.

    If you were tortured when you were a fetus, you will always EXPECT torture, but you may never be intellectually aware of this expectation until you read Janov's work. Even when your reality has changed -- even when scientists prove that your reality has improved -- you will always expect torture. Your lizard-self will never know that the threat is gone, and you will behave accordingly.

    Janov's work is not dark. Your delusion is dark. You must resolve your delusion first. Then you will feel everybody's reality. Forget about other therapists, they are just trying to fit into each other's delusions... they are trying to feel less alone... they are trying to live in the real version of reality (everybody's reality) but they cannot because they are delusional.


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.