Thursday, October 30, 2014

Compulsion: Another Brilliant Piece from the N.Y. Times

There is a piece in the NY Times of Oct 14, 2014 (see
about the devilish OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) where people are so driven that they cannot stop washing their hands or stepping over cracks.  It gets much worse than that.  Not touching any object if anyone else has touched it.    Not turning doorknobs or any handles once they have been touched.  And the sufferer cannot stop and never knows what to do about it.  Nor does the therapist who goes on year after year treating the symptoms and never asking herself if there are causes?  It is like treat cancer year after year and never seeking out causes. 

Come to think about it, it is pretty close to any compulsion, smoking, drinking, painkillers, etc.  They are compelled to do it and can’t stop.  An excessive fear of germs, is another example. So let me see: if you have to smoke you are not obsessive, but if you have to step over cracks, you are.  What if they are the same?  What if they are both ways of dealing with pain and fear?  Would the treatment differ?  Not according to the NY Times……proper medication seems to be the answer and then a bit of Behavioral Therapy.  The article states that people do know they are obsessive but cannot stop themselves.  What does that mean?  I know.  They ask, “Do you have thoughts that make you anxious?” 
They claim that painkillers and tranquilizers work but most sufferers do not receive evidence- based medication.  And then they need Behavioral Therapy.  They claim that their psychotherapy can work even when done over the telephone. 

And “The techniques of cognitive behavioral therapy has proved most effective”.  The patient, they claim cannot change his behavior based on new information.  Isn’t that the problem with nearly every neurosis?  Sex addicts cannot change, nor can gamblers, nor can angry, violent people.  Do they need to learn new behaviors?  Yes, but only if we neglect causes; only if we mess around the edges and try to change the result of an imprint.    What imprint?  Why the one that is discussed in most scientific inquiries today.  The one indicating that there are enduring imprints that dog us for a  lifetime and change our symptoms and our behaviors, to say nothing of our personalities.  

This newspaper article only deals with management of symptoms, and does not attack causes; so of course the therapy is necessarily limited.  And can someone tell me what “evidenced-based therapy” is?  The method is usually based on exposure therapy.  Where you expose someone to a germ, putting a finger along a dirty wood plank,  and help her not feel so anxious.  “You see, there is nothing to be afraid of.”  Oh, yes, I see, and yes there is---an experience when I born that was horrendous.  It was imprinted.  How about not stepping on cracks: does Behavioral therapy help?  Well I don’t step on cracks anymore but I smoke more cigarettes per day. 

    It is not thoughts that create anxiety;  it is the contrary, anxiety provokes thoughts.  

So if they have it backwards can it work?  
Can exposing someone to anxiety situations help them lose their fixation?  Or if I talk to you and help you identify “unhealthy” thoughts can you get over them?  Are the causes thoughts?  Or are they way, way back in time to where anxiety is the primordial response to life endangering events?  And that anxiety is not and never was an aberration but, rather, a normal response to danger.  The person responded to this threat with deep brain processes.  Namely terror, now called anxiety.  It is called anxiety because the connection between the early event and its effects have disappeared.  So we cannot see what causes primordial terror; therefore we name it anxiety.  We name it for its concomitants; its basic reactions, shakiness, bubbling in the stomach, not its causes. 

We are treating the wrong thing with the wrong brain, and we expect help?  Yes we get help with the reactions where we either change them or detour them or deny them through  “healthy” thoughts.  
So the cure for them is to change how you see things.  And basically, don’t look.

I have to repeat. There is a world of science out there that therapists ignore; and who suffers?  Patients. 


  1. Hi,

    I read in the Times today that "Britons are born grumpy".

    Andrew Oswald at Warwick University UK is the researcher. Britons have a "short form" of the genes that regulate serotonin. So this explains why Britons are an island of "gloomy miserabilists".
    Apparently the French are even more afflicted but the Danes enjoy a "long form" version of the "happiness gene" and their descendents elsewhere on the planet seem to be happier. . . Prof. Oswald does say there are other influences (epigenetics?)

    Is this just 'popular pseudo science' or does it explain (if only partly) why I am such a grumpy, cynical tradesman? I'm sure the recession has something to do with it.

    Paul G.

  2. Ha...ha, one must think that what I right comes from a person who thinks everything is just "peachy keen" and that I have lived in a "peachy kieen world"...that is a joke. Aside from my family, who were always strict with me, including siblings, I have been shown great prejudice against, just for being myself. So now, I do try to build some type of strengh for people, some type of foundation, try to reason for why some people, kids are the way they are,....and what it comes down to always... maybe I just don't have quite the literary writing (vocabulary). This is o.k.....I think Dr. Janov is great. Possibly one thinks I get to personal in posts, but reading others, I don't think so, but whatever. .....

  3. I like this post, Art. Very well put.

    1. This is an excellent post. Most of what Dr. Janov has to say, I have saved to computer;or have printed pages out as to what he has to say; always good for reference or to read again, to help me understand what goes on. As I have said before, Dr. Janov is brilliant

  4. Hi,

    This is for Frank in particular:

    -"Do you have thoughts that make you anxious"-.?

    What is it that caused me to so quickly see the facts are actually the other way around?

    Art said The horse refers to us. . . So simple. . .

    Perhaps I delude myself but I have always been fascinated by "Cause & Effect". Curiosity and technology have always been my 'toys'. . . A + B = C. . . That kind of thing. Constructive / De-constructive. . . Etc.

    Anyway, when presented by the facts on this blog 4 years ago, it didn't take me long to understand the basics of Primal Theory. . . What is still taking time is peeling the layers of denial away; my defenses.

    The reason why people still believe fundamentally in the power of (positive) thought is because they MUST DENY their PAIN and LIVE in the ramparts of their MINDS. It's all "out there" for them isn't it?

    I still do it, but now mainly to SURVIVE the NEGATIVE JUDGEMENTS on me FROM OUTSIDE regarding the controversial issues going on in my family.
    I do all this research on-line to STRENGTHEN my CRITICAL FACULTIES because I NEED TO STOP BELIEVING the criticisms leveled at me by these other COGNITIVE TYRANTS which make me feel like I WANT TO DIE.

    There's a kind of irony in that isn't there? I mean, if you know about some-one's traumas then you can indeed put negative thoughts into their heads and get negative results. . . SO HEY PRESTO thoughts can effect feelings!

    CBT is therefore a tyrannical psych wing of the controlling forces; it is based on a perversion of the truth about RESONANCE DOWN. . . -"You had better think POSITIVE or else we will put NEGATIVE thoughts into your head instead"-. Remember: You must be MAD (& bad) not to THINK POSITIVELY.

    So all my mental machinations are a survival strategy to protect me and my family from the behaviorist government vultures who have hijacked my grandson. Worse still, to protect myself from former 'friends' and so called therapists who have colluded to do same.

    Paul G.

    1. My best friend ever!

      I have no problem to see how negative input can push someone the wrong direction ... but what negative content represents is not always in a sense to be negative they evoke only negative experiences ... experiences oneself are cemented at or long since cemented ever since childhood.

      Paul, I am your best friend... for all what you express but in the same time I hope that you can accept what comes out of my mouth as not always is of a negative sense even if you perceive it so ... let us explain ourselves!

      If the content presented without disparaging sentences so as silly or another in guiding purpose of personal gain without respect or content... then is the question far from what the content presented and we stand against each other like two politicians trying to score points more than be of love for each other. Love in the sense of what life all is about!

      My "need" to make you "stupid" is of may own "stupidity" and everything is lost. Or save my life... long time ago!

      Your Frank

    2. this subject is close to my hearth or should i say my brainstem. not much use in having insights when the first line engine gets its momentum.
      i think Art, whenever you talk about symptoms you should agree with "colleagues"
      that symptoms are treatable. not argue about it. maybe even epigenetics are part of machinery of symptoms. we will see... the whole objective holly grail sometimes seems neurotic to me... maybe you are excited by many new research data because they all support connections you made subjectively. there you can see (but others don't) the proof of your work and your theory. could it be that the birth of new knowledge is always subjective. without that foundation we get easily corrupted and fooled. without the subjective science there is more chance the data will be manipulated. marketed for some crazy goal. totally lose the meaning.
      where is the truth and belief if it is not rooted inside us?
      i wish i could say something that i am sure of. sorry for vagueness... your blogs AND comments are always pushing me to the edge of me.

      i see now> you don't want to stop calling them your colleagues and you even accept their scientific language but in a way you consciously put yourself in a trap of trying to prove what can't be proven to people that can't understand it. maybe you don't feel trapped but it is not easy place to be.

    3. Hi vuko,

      I like your response. . . It has occurred to me that Art 'needs' his patients and us on this blog because he also still has 'needs'. . .

      I don't think 'needs' ever go away. . . till we die. . . Anyway, I watched the same video of the lion meeting his trainer that triggered a primal in Art recently and I burst into tears myself. . . Not only because I knew Art had seen it but because I also have 'needs' which resonate back to a time when I wanted so badly to be loved and hugged.

      That lion. . . Wow, rubbing his (her?) nose and cheeks against his. . . cuddling up to him. . . Bless.

      Paul G.

  5. Hi,

    On CBT:

    My doctor said: "if you don't believe in it, it won't work" and more or less told/looked at me as if I were being deliberately 'resistant'.

    Where on earth is all this EVIDENCE that CBT actually works ? ? ? WHO are these people that benefit from yet another BELIEF SYSTEM ? ? ? HOW did they get "well" ? ? ?

    Too many unanswered questions. . . And if I know anything about statistics I bet the authorities use extremely partial test groups.

    On another note, I met some people who have Multiple Sclerosis last night. They are part of a support group and were out for dinner, we got talking. It's an 'auto-immune disease'. Like arthritis the immune system starts attacking parts of the body. One of these sufferers said she had been 'given' CBT and she agreed it was a pointless exercise. . . She's on anti-depressants, she believes in God and an afterlife. Seeing her take 15 minutes to get up and go on her walker I kind of didn't want to rob her of her beliefs. . . I decided to tone down the conversation I had struck up with her about Arts work. But nevertheless I gave her the Blog & book info. She agreed KNOWING the TRUTH is better than remaining ignorant.

    I wonder if MS & Arthritis is some kind of maladaptive reaction to neurotic pain ?

    The body attacking itself. Like self harm or blame. I'm really concerned because since all this stress has been put onto me from OUTSIDE (and I gave up smoking) I have developed severe symptoms which seem a lot like MS and my arthritis has got worse.

    I'm really struggling at work too. Exhausted and weak all the time.

    As I said before I am struggling with self blame. . . I don't want to go back to that doctor because he'll probably tell me I have an attitude problem. . . No he won't, but of-course it's bound to be MY FAULT that I'm stressed and getting ill. It's all my fault isn't it ? ? ?

    Paul G.

    1. Hi Paul,
      would you like to have a possibility for communication (counselling) with some qualified person in Primal Center?
      Art, is it possible to arrange something like this. once a week or twice a month or...?

      talking with someone who really understand and who is knowledgeable can help i think.

    2. Vuko, right now is won't be possible, we are too loaded. I'm sorry, art

  6. Hi Paul

    The two therapists (one ok and one very good) I saw before doing Primal Therapy both said that no-one they knew (colleagues etc) thought CBT was any good. In fact they said it was total bunk. I was also told that even the government agency's don't think much of it but they don't have anything else and would have to wake up to the cruelty and hurt visited on millions of children in the name of good parenting if they were to find something more effective.

    With regard to MS, Alice Miller was of the opinion that it was a physiological expression of physcological pain. Seems reasonable. A bit like Irritable Bowel Syndrom or ME both of which would seem to be in the same kind of space.

    I totally understand you experiencing the exhaustion and weakness. I went through that a great deal about 5 years ago when I first started to get in touch with what happened to me. I get it occassionally now. How I approached it was not to fight it but almost consider it my friend as it was body trying to tell me something. To dive into it and really feel it. I found that if I stayed with it often insights would emerge over a few days and the exhaustion and weakness would go. Have you read "The Body Never Lies" by Alice Miller. A really great book.

    Good luck

    1. Hi planespotter, thanks for your feedback.

      -"Even the government agency's don't think much of it but they don't have anything else"-.

      Unfortunately (and this is strictly MY 'opinion' based on MY observations), there are some (influential) individuals in these agencies who's psyche reflects perfectly the premises of CBT; they are therefore ardent protagonists for it.

      It seems to me that CBT also reflects perfectly how & why repression works and why beliefs can be used to strengthen repression. This so by the unexamined assumption that thoughts rule. . . Or that thoughts SHOULD rule.

      Thinking requires little conviction or commitment to action (which speaks louder than words) and so CBT (as a set of ideals) wins hand over fist as an inexpensive FOP to these agencies aims and objects.

      Just like antidepressants can be used as a palliative for homelessness: (pills cost much less than homes); so thoughts cost less than feelings. . . It's all about the bottom line and maintaining repression FOR the status quo. As Sieglinde said before, it kind of looks like a conspiracy but the conspirators don't understand their own repressive drives and when they collude together they do only in so far as feelings are perceived by them as TRICKY and best avoided.

      It's an un-conscious collusion by MOST people. This makes it worse because any thoughts can be propagated as a substitute for the truth about human feelings whilst collective human pain remains submerged and reaping havoc with public health.

      There has recently been a drive to 'Preventative Medicine' due to the horrendous explosion in illness and I sense that when Primal is finally accepted it will be because it is PREVENTATIVE theory and will eventually SAVE MONEY. It's just that the (so called) experts do not realise how seriously ill most people are because repression does such a good job of hiding the problem in the early stages.

      I know you know all of this stuff but these 'certain individuals' in government agencies I harp on about are themselves 'repression in motion' without knowing it. In conversation with one of them about this I put it to her (and she agreed with me) that if she were repressed she would know about it. . . She did not understand (nor want to understand) that this is exactly what repression does. . . As a professional she had been trained and could sense the denial in others but NOT in herself. A £35,000 government salary guarantees that.

      Paul G.

  7. Another great article from Art Janov - a critique of an establishment-newspaper article - Mr J does a great dissection without over-relying upon clinical mumbo-jumbo to prove his points all written in nice easy going style of common sense and exposing the real mumbo-jumbo now espoused by 'psychotherapists' claiming that a little tweak here of our behaviour or a little 'insight' there is going to make some profound difference to personal problems that actually date back to childhood - well done Mr Janov lets have some more.

  8. Hi Art,
    wrote the letter about LDN, and meant to say: "It might behoove you to know about LDN"
    My English improves daily but is not perfect yet. Please edit if you want to.

    I want to also take this opportunity to thank you again. My childhood could be likened to having grown up in a torture camp. Constant severe beatings, screaming and hatred. Being the youngest of eight children, I was the dumping ground for everyone else in the house. I was not allowed to talk. They never talked to or with me, only at me. There was zero intellectual stimulation and the only emotion that was all around was intense anger. I shut down completely.

    I could not think at all. My mind was all over the place, and also frozen at the same time. I had ADHD, running around like a loose cannon. Never loved, never held or touched in a caring and loving way.

    Today I am quantum leaps away from all of that, thanks to PT that I started in 1980. My primals are classic 3-2-1 and it is wonderful to just be alive! The changes that have happened to me , and are still happening, occurs at an exponential rate. My cognitive processes are so much clearer than ever, and I am vey much in touch with my feelings, and I can be vulnerable and sensitive and caring, qualities I never had.

    So thanks a million Art. May you stay forever young.

  9. Dr. Janov,
    I feel this is it exactly: "… anxiety provokes thoughts.” Not vice versa.
    My interpretation of “evidenced-based therapy” is behavior observation. If the evidence is based on observation (visual/cognitive) then the therapist cannot find out WHY the client tends to compulsion.
    The method usually based on exposure therapy is called 'flooding', and is based in behavioral therapy.
    Flooding is very heavily used in Germany, Austria and Swiss.

  10. Hi,

    -"There is a world of science out there that therapists ignore"-.

    And there is a world of history IN there that therapists ignore"-.

    Paul G.

    1. Hi,

      between these two extremes (180 degrees) lies "Primal Culture".

      Paul G.

  11. Off topic:

    Just recently I made a video on "housing affordability" for New Zealand. What I notice is that whenever I develop anything like this I can never do it without a feeling of open-ended time. My brother, Richard, is exactly the same. You just can't 'immerse' if you're worried about the clock.

    Reminded me of Primal therapy's open-ended sessions. Feelings (or work requiring some immersive feeling) don't conform to a clock, and simply can't do so.


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.