Monday, December 15, 2014

There Are Memories That Cannot Be "Remembered"

I have  often remarked that the most important memories that drive neurosis, our behavior and our symptoms are those that cannot be remembered; at least not in the way we think of memory. Therein lies the rub.  Because what can you say when the body "remembers" something that affects our eating habits for a lifetime?  And yet we do not "remember" it?  That is because we are too used to thinking of memory as recall; something we can figure out, that has content and words.  So we therapists ask the patient, "Do you remember your childhood?"  Or, "What can you tell me about your childhood?".  The truth is, "Practically nothing".  Because the important stuff, the experiences that change us radically have no words; they long predate the use of words.  Why? because we have found that gestational life and birth traumas change us significantly, and until we can wend our way down the chain of pain we are never aware of these experiences and how they motivate and steer us.  It is when the neuronal circuits of the brain are getting organized which will direct our lives thereafter.

So what does a "body memory" mean?  When a carrying mother is under-nourished, her baby will have a much greater chance of obesity later in life. He (his body) remembers it all.  We can only put a name on it after months of our therapy where the baby is again a baby crying out for food. And he feels the deprivation and pain of it all.  Or, in a study of mice, they found that the "memory" of nutritional deprivation can be passed onto the sperm of the offspring. ("Inherited memory of poor nutrition during pregnancy passed through the sperm of male offspring."  Science Daily, July 10, 2014)(see:

We might say that neurosis means we are walking around in the constant grip of unremembered memories that the body remembers. We can be "aware" of its harmful effects but unconscious of it. We never experienced the pain of it. Awareness lives on high in the brain, devoid of the direct feeling of agony. It can explain, rationalize or deny but never experience it. How about the feeling of helplessness when unable to move out of the womb into life on the planet?  I have seen how some male patients who have relived that hopeless, helpless feeling see why they could not be aggressive in sex; why they give up so easily and feel defeated so quickly, losing their erection.  They cannot "go all the way".  I know this sounds so psychoanalytic but it is observational science at work.

 It is not a concocted hypothesis drawn out of my derriere.  These are epigenetics in process creating havoc in our system, and we never know why because we cannot "remember" it. When we get down to preverbal experience we can finally "remember" it all.  Now we know why Cialis is such a big seller.  Until we remember we have no control of the memory. We only see its later effects, and because it is still a mystery, we find a doctor who will help us suppress those effects until we no longer experience even the results of the memory.  Enter the erection booster, a doctor who has the secret answer to our sex problem. And since nothing but the real memory is liberating these "experts" can devise all sorts of treatments suppressing the symptom, and any of them might be "effective" for a short time.  It has to be short time because the driving source/force is still alive in the subterranean caves of the unconscious.  Can't concentrate?  Might be imprint of chaos lying deep in the brain.  These memories are so powerful because they are often catastrophic in content, and also life-threatening. Lack of nutritional when we are ten is not nearly as life-threatening as lack of it at six months in the womb.  This includes a mother's chronic depression who has a "down" effect on the fetus. Most of it, including biologic processes are "down regulated". There is poor appetite later on, lack of energy, and so on.  He is no longer a self-started; he needs to be encouraged or led as he cannot get himself to anything spontaneously.  Suffocating from the mother's constant smoking or taking "downers" he learns a passive style of life from the very start. He will need the same uppers his mother needed in order to get going. All because he cannot remember.  And worse, he cannot try to remember as it will produce the opposite effect.  He will use the top of the brain to try to get to what is deep down.  It is like trying to sleep when there is constant noise from outside.  It keeps the neo-cortex active when it should lie quiet.  The same brain at different stages of maturity.  When there are many deleterious imprints,  the top level is constantly activated and cannot relax or shut down.  And if we have to get up out of bed, and shout out of the window at the bikers making a racket, all is lost, and that includes sleep.  Suppose now we never knew about the bikers: it is the brain making all the noise that keeps us from sleeping. We are complete victims.  Of whom?  Ourselves.

I emphasize the early months here seeming to neglect the later years. Those later years are critical in shaping our lives out of the crucible of the gene/epigene foundation. But the early months are also heaviest in methylation, indicating to me that this is where the central damage gets done; where the imprints that sculpt our later lives are laid down.  It is where the needs that make us human are predominant. Neglect here has terrible consequences.

Which selves? The methylated ones, of course.  Why are they methylated?  Because they are signs of our wounds from very early on; the stripes/traces foretell of  disasters yet to be experienced. Those they foretell, as well, of the wounds/imprints we cannot remember in any cerebral way; the ones doing so much damage.  So you think we can do Gestalt exercises and feel free?  Think again; in order to feel free we must free ourselves from an overload of methylation, and in no other way.  We need to experience what has never been fully experienced before.  How come?  Because the pain content was so great that it provoked the gates into action so that we would not experience it.  Back then, we travelled a few millimeters into our private pharmacy and grabbed up as much serotonin as we could to stop the suffering. The problem now is we need to find a way to plunge into the suffering and finally be free of it forever.  Too often we do the opposite. We take serotonin again to bolster the gates against memory (Zoloft, etc.). We deliberately make ourselves unconscious.  And this is the way we try to get well?!


  1. Hi Art,

    -"I have often remarked that the most important memories that drive neurosis, our behavior and our symptoms are those that cannot be remembered; at least not in the way we think of memory"-.

    As always the keen student on your blog 'willing' to learn. . . Several people in the past have commented that your words sometimes APPEAR to be contradictory. I am certainly not writing to 'show you up' as contrary but to extrapolate an issue of comprehension about the difference between the 1st line and the 2nd (or 3rd). Which I assume is what you are making here. In this most recent post of yours above you are talking about the 1st line I think.

    But elsewhere when you discussed reliving experiences as REAL (& not ab-reaction) you made a point of saying they are always accompanied by specific visual memories of actual circumstances. . . "The drapes" etc etc. So I assume then you were referring to 2nd / 3rd line re-living. . .

    So, I take it that 1st line is nearly always sensations & feelings. . .

    This leads to a potentially very useful discussion about 'intrusion'. and / or how to separate out 1st from 2nd line. . . because of the way trauma can be compounded over time and the 'memory' of the latter (3rd) can also be of the intrusion of the 1st into the 2nd.

    My boarding school insomniac dormitory nights (aged 9yrs) filled with dread about beatings in the morning from the psycho headmaster (he made a list the week before and we victims had to wait for our punishment) were just exactly that. I posit that 1st line intrusion IS what causes the infamous "double bind". . . Aaaand until the patient get's proper supervision from a therapist who has been through this process themselves, then the 'memories' which aught to have some visual content are distorted by those 1st line 'memories which could never have a 'visual' content at all.

    I have heard you (and other patients in their testimonies) use the expression: "Melange". . . Well, that could also be the way a patient begins gaining access, it could be the only way to start with; like "teasing out" cotton or wool with a thistle the process may be frustrating in the early stages because of 'intrusion'.

    I imagine when patients arrive at the center they have a suitcase filled with 'baggage' and it may be 'packed' in a certain way which only a seriously experienced therapist could begin to unpack.

    The sign of a good therapist would be that she knows how to help patients 'unpack' their baggage without making yet another 'melange'.

    Paul G.

    1. maybe when melange patient exchange the stage and the stadium full of demanding audience with a darkened room where there is someone who is actually interested in him, he unpredictably, miraculously and surprisingly transforms into an expert for slow suitcase unpacking.

  2. The cognitive solution to not feel!

    We have memories that extends to what we must do here and now... it to not remember what limits us to think about what we must do here and now. We can only hope that something happens (not to be mad).

    That we manage to come "forward" with another thoughts is because it leads us further away from obsessive thoughts... which also is obsessions ... just a bit more distanced. The now current human being.


  3. Hate to say it, but many, many times.....people such as siblings, ex-boyfriends, friends, and so-called friends just don't want me to remember. But I do remember many things....and I don't let that dissuay me. My memory doesn't lessen because people are against it...just find it to be labled as another "possible struggle" (ha,ha). It's really not funny.

    1. Hi coastbeach7,

      -yeah, they say things like: -"oh man, you're so stuck in the past"-. . .

      Paul G.

  4. Just one word. Excellent .

    It resonates with me 100%

  5. Do you think that even genes are at least partly 'memories' rather than computer like programs that run off.

  6. To read this is enlightening ; very good article. It is frustrating, of course. We try the best we can, thinking, "ah, this is the answer" but there is no long term answer; unless one goes to get primal therapy. It is sad, in a way. Sad, frustrating, and a struggle at times. One thinks taking serotonin is the answer or might at least help in some way, but as Art isn't. So we go on, knowing what is wrong, what has to be done to be fixed, we try "possible remedies" knowing what is needed is money. If one doesn't have the finances at this time, it sure does help me to know what is going on in one's system at times. And then, a lot of times, maybe family just wants you to be the way you are, some accept you as you are, as you always have been...because they know you can't afford to get help at any time too soon. Too many other expenses first, and sure, this is a priority, but it seems unless one wins Lotto, connection feelilng cannot be cured. Thanks Art.

  7. An email comment:
    "one if your clearest! thanks. Bob

  8. Another email comment:
    "Dear Art, thank you for your continuing urgings toward a saner society. You always "make my day" with your posts. From my own primalling I find your statements continually verified. Just today I have felt some very poignant things from my life, the directions were all over the board, but slowly there was a theme "feeling cold and crushed". Obviously the first line is coming up, and connections of this feeling to my unresponsiveness in conflicts, just "taking things" and never "fighting back", being beaten down by groups in school and even once at work, being hit by a wife and continuing to stay with her, not vigorously defending myself from false allegations, and on and on, loath to hit anyone even when my life was threatened. All this connected to a beating by my mother, no emotional warmth from either parent, and yes, just as you were saying here: feelings of being cold and crushed all beneath this "wimp" behavior, feeling powerless, and just waiting for the "bad" to pass or go away, all obviously feelings from the first line. Compounding... I can only feel portions at a time, but I do think I am getting "better". There is some abreaction mixed in at times and I think I usually and quickly catch it, but progress is there. So, thank you Art! Today I feel a little less helpless and more relaxed. :) I may wimp out on the colonosopy the doctor wants to get me, but at least I know where it's coming from and maybe I will go and get it done. ;)"

    1. Hi,
      this is interesting and useful:

      -"There is some abreaction mixed in at times and I think I usually and quickly catch it, but progress is there"-.

      Paul G.

  9. This whole memory thing and not being able to remember is quite fascinating and damn frustrating. Having had many memories flood out in a Tidal wave nearly ten years ago (though they were there many years before that) I can vouch for the body memory as a useful but ghostlike entity. 'The Body Never Lies" by Alice Miller also helped here though she never got as far as understanding how prebirth experiences can impact. I think one of the body memories I have is Tinitus. Mine fluctuates with how I am feeling and I am sure this is unaknowledged first line stuff. If I am happy and feeling more relaxed or even upset and crying my tinitus tends to be far less noticable. Some Doctors may say that I am distracted so am not noticing it so much. I would say that perhaps I am more in touch with "Little Me" and so he does not need to work so hard to get my attention. I thought I was relaxed at the moment and in somes I am. However I am waiting for some scans that could well prove an event that was very traumatic to me at age 3. The not knowing and the fear that the Doctor will turn round and say something that will counteract my hypothosis is causing tension and thus Tinitus. Fingers crossed I am right about what happened. I think I am.

    1. Hi planespotter,

      I also have chronic tinnitus in my left ear. . . I read your account with interest and attention. . .

      Paul G

    2. Hi Paul. I would be very interested to hear how you get on if you start to "feel" the Tinitus.

  10. planespotter, i can only confirm your observations.
    anyway, if my tinnitus was constant it would be impossible for me to notice the connection.

    just thinking now> it becomeseasier to imagine that our whole body is sometimes more and sometimes less "ringing" about the conflict inside us ... and we can't hear it.

    1. Hi Vuko. Thanks for your comments. They are very heartening and helped me feel vindicated in my belief in my hypothosis. :-)

  11. today i got stuck in an elevator. alone. metal all around me...

    another observation>
    more than once i think i touched one of the causes of what i felt in that elevator. and comparing the two for me is like comparing the intensive music with audio feedback. the part of us that deals with the outside (mic, amp and speakers) i think is causing the anxiety (feedback). i also call it "confusion" because i don't know what else could cause such crazy mess. my logic is that the worst situation for the system is when the danger is invisible. that is why i think "feedback" is by far the worst phenomena.

    memory is not just something to brag or whine about but something that is functional PART of us. something we ACT upon all the time. to re member means> to be. memory is who we are. i don't remember much.


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.