Sunday, October 26, 2014

Deprived Children, Adult Believers

To be fully loved during childhood gives a person enduring peace. I mean this literally since very early love brings our internal supplies of the gating neurotransmitters up to normal.  A loved child will have no need to believe in ideologies full of hope and magic.  Someone at peace with herself has no reason to go to faith healers or to be "born again"; she does not need to retreat with a group of people to an ashram or a cabin in the woods to meditate, chant, deep breathe in order to find peace.

          Children need to be touched, caressed and soothed.  They need to be heard, protected and made to feel safe.  They need parents who will allow them to express their feelings and who will help them with those feelings.  When these needs go unmet, the foundation of a personality that will grasp at belief later in life is being built. One key biochemical reason is that love enhances the secretion of oxytocin and serotonin. Both are the juices that suppress pain and keep us comfortable.  Lack of love means a lack of those precious biochemicals; hence lack of defense against pain.  Beliefs follow.

          The needy person may well become devoted to a deity who promises to understand everything, to nurture, to protect, and to supply all the unfulfilled needs of a lifetime.  This was the lure of EST some years ago (discussed earlier; a template for all later weekend emotional workshops). The leaders, who with the charismatic Werner Erhard, said they cared, while at the same time castigating and swearing at the members massed in a weekend retreat in some hotel room. They were called losers and useless, but if they tried hard they wouldn’t have to be, and the leader and his adepts would see to it that they got over those feelings that they actually instilled.  Of course, they instilled ideas that matched how the people really felt; and the believers desperately wanted to feel differently. They gave Erhard a fortune, to not end hunger in the world, but to end the idea of hunger in the world. Meanwhile the money went to some Caribbean island in a secret bank account.  And still they believed.

        One of our patients, formerly into belief systems, said that he used to fly into a rage when his wife didn't understand him.  He felt like it was life and death that she understands him.  He had an urgent need — for a mother, a wife, a god who would fully understand, hold and soothe him. He relived the trauma — a deep-seated need to have his needs understood, beginning at birth, a wrenching abandonment when he was too young to comprehend what was happening.  He could feel it, despite no understanding on a cortical level.  A need to be understood back then really was a matter of life and death.  His professional field was communication.

        One way that defensive belief systems come into being, even fairly early in a child's life, is when that child is taught not to express feelings, not to speak thoughts that are unacceptable, not to express resentment, jealousy, or other negative thoughts, not to speak badly of others, and never to say what is in her heart.  Once installed, the censoring process continues automatically.  The child comes later on to substitute ideas for what he or she really feels.  Having unreal ideas as an adult is just a logical extension of what happened in early childhood.


  1. An email comment:
    " You have helped me greatly, Dr.Art....when I am triggered , I sit still and feel for hours and eventually relive my dad and mom splitting up when I was allergies/ asthma get strong than they seem to improve in layers as the grief comes out of my lungs...I am 48 , live in Chicago and feel lighter and lighter inside as I feel my little boy feelings rise up... hopefully allergies/ breathing will release totally as my onion gets pealed...blessings to you and France. I love you 2 very much.. ."

    1. Now you know why I write... because of letters like yours. art janov

  2. Another email comment:
    "Wow, I think that is well said. Only when I am feeling overloaded now do I give a flickering thought to such unreal beliefs, and that soon passes with not much thought given to them, knowing the feelings inside me.

    Recently I went to a discussion group and loved it because a lady who was a high school teacher and very caring led the group. I loved it, partly because I never had a very loving mother figure in my life and she was old enough to be my mother and had caring eyes.

    However, the discussion was about a book that praised concepts like meditation and vague notions that somehow thinking "love" would make someone a "better" "more caring" person. The ideas were attacked to my great pleasure because it was a "free thought" Church, the Unitarian Universalist Church. I gave them your ideas and some were very open. So, I think that people who can't get what you are saying here do not have minds that are free, they are very enslaved. I could sense the vulnerability of some and was able to be kind and diplomatic. Thank you for this, and thank you for helping to free my mind from all the nonsense.

    I would like to believe in a love that would conquer all our sufferings and give us better lives in a world without hate and suffering. Yet where would the meaning be to life if we didn't have to help create this ourselves? What would be the value of a song that never ended? I am not the baby or the child I once was, so the very idea of my "self" is not a reality outside of memories, memories of a self that begins and ends many times, a long and sometimes painful illusion.

    However, if the universe is more like a computer program memories may be the only reality, but speculation is not proof and we are lost in a world in which wonder may be our best joy and only liberation.

    Lost in the wonder and the music of life I feel no need for fantastical thoughts, as they would be a plastic sham pasted on a wonder beyond imagination, a wonder that connects me to a moment which is not bound by time.

    Feeling such I have no fears, and death holds no victory, I need not be lifted, I need not be reborn, I live and I love, and virtue is not surprising nor special, it is just me being myself with others.

    Repentance, being sincere, is not special, it is the beginning of change. Salvation is just an embrace of life, and that embrace is but honest feeling communicating with love.

    Seeing life without an ego isn't a higher goal, it is just a connection to the mind I was born with, and to which I am growing more and more connected. Nothing is bigger than life, and I desire not to be less than my own small part of it. That joy is a buoyancy that can't be lost except by the pain I have not felt, and when it is threatened I have but to feel my feelings honestly piece by piece in a primal love found in memories long and short, born of instinct and care.

    I have a long journey back into the darkness of my pain, to be fully free in the light of love. It is a hard journey but one that is my very self, without which I would be lost to myself and therefor lost to the world and all true virtue, which is just healthy love, a gift that is not lost in the stress of false struggles, not given to revolutionary zeal, knowing full well that trust and caring lift all who join in its harmony.

    I thank you Arthur though I have never known you, You were a light for me when all in my life was dark. You are not savior to people, but you have been a friend to all.

    Thank you"

  3. Hi,

    -"Deprived Child, Adult Believer"-.

    In my search on the Net for yet more material to supplement my hunger and thirst for knowledge (an act out I know) I came across the following e-book:

    -"Throughout: Art & Culture Emerging with Ubiquitous Computing"-. Edited by Ulrick Ekman.

    In it he explores exactly what we are doing on this blog. He points out that "as we send we also receive". . . And this may be forming a "Narcissistic Short Circuit". . .

    It's a valid warning and one which only Art as a first rate psychologist/facilitator could mediate. I for one am seriously at risk of making this blog a substitute for a loving life as well as a substitute for Primal Therapy.

    It's good I have discovered this insight because it is part of de-compressing myself from the various "cults" I had become identified with before. The 'New Age' community I ranted about before, in particular was concealing a kind of group narcissim in which I also tried to conceal my neurosis but failed dismally due to having a substantial breakdown.

    Group narcissism and emotional collapse are incompatible, though I can't really say with any conviction, that is "fortunate"; but it is true nevertheless.

    Paul G.

  4. Hello Paul,

    The cause of what and how we are doing... shows the results... the question is if we can decipher it!?

    There is no one who can tell us about how we are doing as long we can't "listening" (feel)... and then... when we can feel... it has no more role to play.

    An intellectual explanation reaches only as far as we ourselves are capable of feeling it. It is dependent on how and what we do... which is to look for ways to relieve own suffering... which got nothing to do with what we are "suspected" for... suspected by the way we ourselfs understand what we read.

    So when the time comes... that's when intellectual explanation no longer is sufficient as a defense... it with the result that anxiety or depression begins... symptoms... traces from of our history.

    What we do... our actions are always aimed at alleviating own suffering. For what others may give their explanations... is and will always be an opinion and got nothing to do with why we do what we may do. Their explanation may sound wise... but it is only for those who do not perceive own suffering.

    Obviously... an opinion can be right... but it helps no one who am not about to do something about own suffering.


  5. Art ,I never ever was in danger to be a believer in anyone /anything not even in Jiddu Krishnamurt or U.G. Krishnamurti!!!(see him up !!!!) because most of them are so unbelievable u g l y(look at this
    monstrous banal face of Hitler or ,or Maharishi or Osho or (the aforemention excclusiv!!!9

    I share Your point Paul!! emanuel

  6. When I was younger I was in an offshoot of EST called "Relationships" for 4 years. The guy who started the offshoot was one Robert Hargrove, still going strong decades later from a new organisation called Masterful Coaching, now pushing his idiotic ideas in business circles which are much more lucrative needy suckers.One person who worked for Hargrove, whom I also knew, then went on to work for the Hunger Project for many years.

    The reasons Art gives as to why we who were caught up in these cults were so deluded may be true. As usual, for me at least, Primal Theory sounds convincing on paper but I can't yet confirm the theory experientially. All I do know is that my basic rebellious anti-authoritarian anarchistic side, resulting, I suppose, from having to deal with an Italian fascist mother, eventually saw through all the manipulative ESTian rationalisations for sheer crude authoritarianism. I then rebelled, and I left...with a lot of bitterness and rage at having been exploited. These worst of these emotions took me 10 years to work out. And I still get bugged when I hear about cults.How that might be related at a deeper level to my mother I do not know.

    Whatever the reasons for this cult phenomenon- and Art's more elaborate explanations in "Prisoners of Pain" are fascinating reading -, the phenomenon seems pretty strong and widespread even around networks that I thought would have been pretty free of them. And so I find out lately that Wilhelm Reich, towards the end of his life, had some cultic followers it seems,even though Reich had identified the cultic phenomenon that might appear in his patients as a form of spurious positive transference (mystical "devotion" he called it, I think). Many people who worked around him were sincerily aware that they could fall into that trap, as they often point out in their writings. And some did, while others left the Reichian orbit when Reich himself started demanding subservience towards the end of his life when he started to flip out (which even his admirers concede; his detractors always thought he was crazy even earlier in his life, which is total bullshit if you read his eminently sane books)

    We also find that even in early primal, some folks left Art to form a notorious cult. Right? So , whatever it is it's a pretty widespread and tenacious phenomenon..


    1. Marco,

      what you write is fascinating,

      I have been highly influenced by the obsessions of Jung; mostly without really knowing it. . .

      Art once implied that "people choose the therapy that suits their repression/personality'.

      I am sure this is not only 'true' but also a format for culture (and the way personalities integrate) . Neurosis is spread throughout the way we express need. Or un-met need more to the point (of Primal).

      The point of Primal is to re-experience need at the point of it's most pertinence.

      So the theory goes. This changes the imprint to normal set points (de-methylation)... .

      The way 'cults' HOLD their 'adherents' is by drawing ever closer the 'realisation of their needs'. . .

      But never quite 'delivering'. . .

      Delivery is What Counts.

      That is how we get born.

      These 'Cultists' always offer a sublime symbol of "Deliverance" . . . But never the thing itself.

      And what a terrifying distraction that is.

      Paul G.

    2. the concept that patient is the boss and importance of trust in patient for me is not easy to grasp.
      that means that i am living in a belief system. or on the edge of it.


Review of "Beyond Belief"

This thought-provoking and important book shows how people are drawn toward dangerous beliefs.
“Belief can manifest itself in world-changing ways—and did, in some of history’s ugliest moments, from the rise of Adolf Hitler to the Jonestown mass suicide in 1979. Arthur Janov, a renowned psychologist who penned The Primal Scream, fearlessly tackles the subject of why and how strong believers willingly embrace even the most deranged leaders.
Beyond Belief begins with a lucid explanation of belief systems that, writes Janov, “are maps, something to help us navigate through life more effectively.” While belief systems are not presented as inherently bad, the author concentrates not just on why people adopt belief systems, but why “alienated individuals” in particular seek out “belief systems on the fringes.” The result is a book that is both illuminating and sobering. It explores, for example, how a strongly-held belief can lead radical Islamist jihadists to murder others in suicide acts. Janov writes, “I believe if people had more love in this life, they would not be so anxious to end it in favor of some imaginary existence.”
One of the most compelling aspects of Beyond Belief is the author’s liberal use of case studies, most of which are related in the first person by individuals whose lives were dramatically affected by their involvement in cults. These stories offer an exceptional perspective on the manner in which belief systems can take hold and shape one’s experiences. Joan’s tale, for instance, both engaging and disturbing, describes what it was like to join the Hare Krishnas. Even though she left the sect, observing that participants “are stunted in spiritual awareness,” Joan considers returning someday because “there’s a certain protection there.”
Janov’s great insight into cultish leaders is particularly interesting; he believes such people have had childhoods in which they were “rejected and unloved,” because “only unloved people want to become the wise man or woman (although it is usually male) imparting words of wisdom to others.” This is just one reason why Beyond Belief is such a thought-provoking, important book.”
Barry Silverstein, Freelance Writer

Quotes for "Life Before Birth"

“Life Before Birth is a thrilling journey of discovery, a real joy to read. Janov writes like no one else on the human mind—engaging, brilliant, passionate, and honest.
He is the best writer today on what makes us human—he shows us how the mind works, how it goes wrong, and how to put it right . . . He presents a brand-new approach to dealing with depression, emotional pain, anxiety, and addiction.”
Paul Thompson, PhD, Professor of Neurology, UCLA School of Medicine

Art Janov, one of the pioneers of fetal and early infant experiences and future mental health issues, offers a robust vision of how the earliest traumas of life can percolate through the brains, minds and lives of individuals. He focuses on both the shifting tides of brain emotional systems and the life-long consequences that can result, as well as the novel interventions, and clinical understanding, that need to be implemented in order to bring about the brain-mind changes that can restore affective equanimity. The transitions from feelings of persistent affective turmoil to psychological wholeness, requires both an understanding of the brain changes and a therapist that can work with the affective mind at primary-process levels. Life Before Birth, is a manifesto that provides a robust argument for increasing attention to the neuro-mental lives of fetuses and infants, and the widespread ramifications on mental health if we do not. Without an accurate developmental history of troubled minds, coordinated with a recognition of the primal emotional powers of the lowest ancestral regions of the human brain, therapists will be lost in their attempt to restore psychological balance.
Jaak Panksepp, Ph.D.
Bailey Endowed Chair of Animal Well Being Science
Washington State University

Dr. Janov’s essential insight—that our earliest experiences strongly influence later well being—is no longer in doubt. Thanks to advances in neuroscience, immunology, and epigenetics, we can now see some of the mechanisms of action at the heart of these developmental processes. His long-held belief that the brain, human development, and psychological well being need to studied in the context of evolution—from the brainstem up—now lies at the heart of the integration of neuroscience and psychotherapy.
Grounded in these two principles, Dr. Janov continues to explore the lifelong impact of prenatal, birth, and early experiences on our brains and minds. Simultaneously “old school” and revolutionary, he synthesizes traditional psychodynamic theories with cutting-edge science while consistently highlighting the limitations of a strict, “top-down” talking cure. Whether or not you agree with his philosophical assumptions, therapeutic practices, or theoretical conclusions, I promise you an interesting and thought-provoking journey.
Lou Cozolino, PsyD, Professor of Psychology, Pepperdine University

In Life Before Birth Dr. Arthur Janov illuminates the sources of much that happens during life after birth. Lucidly, the pioneer of primal therapy provides the scientific rationale for treatments that take us through our original, non-verbal memories—to essential depths of experience that the superficial cognitive-behavioral modalities currently in fashion cannot possibly touch, let alone transform.
Gabor Maté MD, author of In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction

An expansive analysis! This book attempts to explain the impact of critical developmental windows in the past, implores us to improve the lives of pregnant women in the present, and has implications for understanding our children, ourselves, and our collective future. I’m not sure whether primal therapy works or not, but it certainly deserves systematic testing in well-designed, assessor-blinded, randomized controlled clinical trials.
K.J.S. Anand, MBBS, D. Phil, FAACP, FCCM, FRCPCH, Professor of Pediatrics, Anesthesiology, Anatomy & Neurobiology, Senior Scholar, Center for Excellence in Faith and Health, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare System

A baby's brain grows more while in the womb than at any time in a child's life. Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script That Rules Our Lives is a valuable guide to creating healthier babies and offers insight into healing our early primal wounds. Dr. Janov integrates the most recent scientific research about prenatal development with the psychobiological reality that these early experiences do cast a long shadow over our entire lifespan. With a wealth of experience and a history of successful psychotherapeutic treatment, Dr. Janov is well positioned to speak with clarity and precision on a topic that remains critically important.
Paula Thomson, PsyD, Associate Professor, California State University, Northridge & Professor Emeritus, York University

"I am enthralled.
Dr. Janov has crafted a compelling and prophetic opus that could rightly dictate
PhD thesis topics for decades to come. Devoid of any "New Age" pseudoscience,
this work never strays from scientific orthodoxy and yet is perfectly accessible and
downright fascinating to any lay person interested in the mysteries of the human psyche."
Dr. Bernard Park, MD, MPH

His new book “Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script that Rules Our Lives” shows that primal therapy, the lower-brain therapeutic method popularized in the 1970’s international bestseller “Primal Scream” and his early work with John Lennon, may help alleviate depression and anxiety disorders, normalize blood pressure and serotonin levels, and improve the functioning of the immune system.
One of the book’s most intriguing theories is that fetal imprinting, an evolutionary strategy to prepare children to cope with life, establishes a permanent set-point in a child's physiology. Baby's born to mothers highly anxious during pregnancy, whether from war, natural disasters, failed marriages, or other stressful life conditions, may thus be prone to mental illness and brain dysfunction later in life. Early traumatic events such as low oxygen at birth, painkillers and antidepressants administered to the mother during pregnancy, poor maternal nutrition, and a lack of parental affection in the first years of life may compound the effect.
In making the case for a brand-new, unified field theory of psychotherapy, Dr. Janov weaves together the evolutionary theories of Jean Baptiste Larmarck, the fetal development studies of Vivette Glover and K.J.S. Anand, and fascinating new research by the psychiatrist Elissa Epel suggesting that telomeres—a region of repetitive DNA critical in predicting life expectancy—may be significantly altered during pregnancy.
After explaining how hormonal and neurologic processes in the womb provide a blueprint for later mental illness and disease, Dr. Janov charts a revolutionary new course for psychotherapy. He provides a sharp critique of cognitive behavioral therapy, psychoanalysis, and other popular “talk therapy” models for treating addiction and mental illness, which he argues do not reach the limbic system and brainstem, where the effects of early trauma are registered in the nervous system.
“Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script that Rules Our Lives” is scheduled to be published by NTI Upstream in October 2011, and has tremendous implications for the future of modern psychology, pediatrics, pregnancy, and women’s health.