Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Looking Glass is Inside Out (Revised)

I have often wondered why there is so much nonsense out there in mental illness.  One psychiatrist says most of it is a brain disease and the answer will be found in analyzing the molecules of the brain. This is also the view of the former head of National  Institute of Mental Health, Dr. Volkow.  She spends her days in the depths of brain neurons trying to find answers to so many problems. Still others come up with nutty ideas about depression and anxiety that I have cited in numerous articles.  Some want to drill in the brain, others shock it, and most others want to medicate it.  Few if any know what it is they are shocking or medicating. The reason: they all need to guess what “it” is.   And “it” is not a neuron or a molecule or a hormone. “It” is a memory, an imprinted one that sways genes in one direction or another and alters our trajectory of life.

In other words, they all have  to guess because no one has seen “it”; they all have to look at it from outside, imagining what lies inside; yet it can be seen;  it is palpable, one can hear the screams and tears from it.  One can observe the wrenching body arcs from the pain and hear the gasping for breath.  One can observe the relief from the reliving, as the body and face relax, not only from observation but in the indices of vital signs that descend radically after a primal reliving.   And descend in ordered fashion.

Why hasn’t anyone thought about it?  Because Behaviorists rule the roost.  Looking at it all from the outside is de rigueur, while feelings are an anathema; a simple negative influence to be eschewed, set aside and abandoned.  Feelings become pests in the overall scheme of science where precise measurement is the apotheosis.  Yet it is feelings that govern and drive us; feelings when repressed make us sick. We will never notice this so long as we remain outside its realm and choose to observe from afar.  How can know that anoxia at birth may play a part in migraines until we see someone relive the beginning of anoxia and develop a headache?  How can we know what is behind depression until we see deep pain at work with repression rushing to save our sanity and create depression as a consequence?  How can we know what is behind anxiety until patients travel down the chain of pain, descending through levels of consciousness to the most primordial reactions of panic?  How can we ever know what the trauma at birth does to us until we see the reliving and discover the lifelong allergies and attendant breathing problems?  Or what it does to blood pressure and heart rate as it rises radically during the reliving?  Moreover, it drops to normal levels after the primal experience.

So of course some can say it is a brain disease since we can always find accompaniments to, for example, for anorexia.   None of this exists in a vacuum.  Of course there are changes in serotonin levels accompanying the affliction but they are not necessarily causes.  We will never know that so long as we are “objective observers.”  Once we delve into deep memory and feelings we will find a whole new world, the primal world, if you will.  It will open up a plethora of directions that pain has taken us, but it is not in the chemistry of pain where answers will be found, but in the causes of that pain.  Of course when there is a lack of serotonin in certain anxiety states it helps to add serotonin/Prozac to the mix.  But that is what I call tinkering or tweaking.  It has little to do with ultimate causes.   We can tweak dopamine or serotonin in depression, and currently they do this by adding “chemical uppers,” activating chemicals to it.  Or they tinker with the glutamate level allowing more activation with less repression. And when they tinker it has to be a daily job because the causes are untouched and create the same old mess over and over again; witness drug addiction.  The addict’s pain is very deep, we have seen it, and it causes heavy-duty drugs to calm it—over and over again.  How do we know?  We have treated addicts and see the pain underlying the addiction. We know it is refractory because the level of pain, down deep in the brain is never touched in all those rehab centers.  Worse, they do not know it exists. So what do they do? They calm it chemically and are satisfied with that. Why satisfied?  Because they have never seen the Pain!  Never seen the agony, which allows them to think that it is just a bad habit.   Or to believe that a few words of praise can help it.  Or to think that a good diet will change it.  Or to think that a few lectures or group therapy will change it.  And the pain, hidden and recalcitrant, shouts back at the curers; try to find me!   “I am far below where you are looking, encrusted into the deepest chemistry of the brain,  conjoined into the act of repression so no one can see  how it works.”


  1. Dear Janov, if you would allow me, I will answer your “wonder” at the first sentence of your article. And the answer is “if you take the wrong train, whichever station you decide to get off, it will be the WRONG STATION”!!

    As plain as that! All those scientists and people not only didn’t have the opportunity to get to know your therapy, but also they filled their psychological emptiness with another psychological theory. It just happened. Thus, they don’t attempt to understand or “approach” your therapy and they keep on their lives according to their knowledge.

    Besides, let’s be honest. Hearing or reading about endless hours of crying, body-spasms on a floor, reliving untold-so-far stories and secrets (like rapes, childhood abuses, let alone all those invisible and – seemingly – invincible first line traumas) isn’t very intriguing or tempting.

    They prefer to play a role-playing-game on their pc, where they slay dragons and monsters, than face their own deep down “dragons and monsters” and actually slay them, freeing themselves from the pain for good!

    And they prefer so, because it is easier as an everyday routine!! It is easier to drink, take drugs, have a lot (or no) sex, work like a maniac, drive like a maniac, become a neurotic-successful politician, actor, artist. And to be honest (again), myself, I would prefer the latter, given the chance back at my 20ies. Why would I bother getting to know what irritates me, when I can just forget it, by becoming a famous actor, with a lot of money, with an abundance of fame, sex and pleasures and ongoing challenges in my career?

    And the answer is….I chose the therapy, because I was just lucky, Dr. Janov! I was an unbelievably lucky bastard, who without knowing what would happen next, took the plane and flew 4000 miles away from home with all the money that lucky bastard had. And if you ask me…yes, I would make the same choice again. And relive the same pain again. Because, I don’t need fame or money when I am under the Earth, dead from a stroke or cancer.

    - Yannis -

    1. So true. Very few want to do the real inner work, the hard work, the great work as it was once called and still is.
      There is too much profit in bringing the traumatised person back month after month and getting no where.
      Too much profit in theories and using the human beings as guinea pigs with medication, so called therapy to try and force you to think differently.etc

    2. Yannis, How absolutely wonderfully put. I really appreciate such honesty, brilliance and perceptions. Thanks so much, Yannis. Art

    3. Hi Yannis,

      I was beginning to feel guilty for occasionally being passionate about feelings. That was after a tirade of mental juggling to handle the negative feedback of singing a chorus ALL ALONE.

      Please sing away, If I may, I can back a bit too, so you don't have to sing alone. . .

      Paul G.

    4. Art,

      HONESTY without offending at comparing with what others may understand is the case!

      HONESTY is something that could become visible in a legal process... HONESTY along with personal experience of how the primal therapeutic process changed the own entire contents for what suffering has its source (what a feeling to take if honesty is violated in a legal process)... individually seen. What further reports of own scientific understanding... of how it is possible that we see from the inside out without being aware of it... and when we become aware of it? That is an accounting that provides answers like no other can. Answers that can be proved in clinical trials far from what else can come close.

      We need to understand and perceive what it is we are dealing with in a legal process and not let ridicule sentences decide the order. Do we know what they contain... what is the reason for ridicule in a crucial scientific context? If we know... they are no problem!

      HONESTY such a beautiful word to live with for what can be misunderstood!


  2. An email comment (Part 1): Hey Art

    Great, but i´ve read it all before in all your books up to & inc. "Why you Get Sick...". Every word. Know it inside out. But I honour you for still keeping it going.

    I spend most of my time with my dogs & cats, and working tirelessly to awaken compassion for and raise awareness of animals. I´ve never primalled but have been in the primal world - inc. your center 1998 - 9 for 6 months in 1998 - 9 - for 22 years. Committed raw vegan and 14 years ago completely alleviated lifelong asthma, CFS and IBS. Not a days illness since then. And feel just great; relaxed, calm, lucid, constant

    I know you hurt over animals. I do too but it can´t be as you do; as i say I´ve never primalled. I live in rural Portugal and every Sunday over the winter the countryside becomes a scene of mass murder and maiming as hunters let rip. It fucking kills me. I weep as I hold an injured bird in my hands. I cry now. I know you understand.

    I´ve been involved with Primal Therapy for 22 years. Read every word you wrote, done 6 months at your center. Met you several times. Done primal with Richard Theed. Been a member of the IPA. Belonged to the PSG years ago.


    I´ve never had a primal. Never SEEN a primal. I´ve seen people trying not to make an effort wherever I´ve been - but of course this is a contradiction in terms - and they always end up doing something weird which moves nobody, not even themselves, and whenever you dare question anything, voice a differing opinion, as human beings do naturally when they have themselves - you are cast out, ostracised, attacked, vilified. No dissent tolerated.

    A primal is a "Profoundly shattering experience" of "earth shattering intensity". It is "boné chilling pain", "extreme agony", "indescribable in its intensity" - all phrases used by you. Every primal profoundly changes you in ways you can clearly see.

    The more you try, the less access you have. The more you try, the more likely you are to abreact, which you says, "Deepens neurosis"

    I´ve given up the internet Primal Support Group, membership 550 more or less, because I honestly think there is 1 person at most having partial primals. Possibly. And if nobody on the PSG is having true primals, and nobody else is brave enough, or knowledgeable, or smart enough, like I was, to try to provoke a real debate on primal therapy, then the group is just a waste if time. Their mutually reinforcing self deluding minds is hostile to free & open debate. The truth is all there in your books, but because primal pain is so excruciatingly agonizing and terrifying, and because people are so desperate to believe they are really doing it, and there is hope, and/or they haven´t wasted all those $$$$$ & time, they´ll spend years on the group, or in a "primal center" achieving nothing, and rewriting primal therapy to suit themselves.

  3. Part 2: There is a world out there which needs me. There are highly compassionate, intelligent, hardworking people dedicating their lives to alleviating the suffering of animals, and many for children. Being on the PSG is like living in an ivory tower. In a tragic irony, those supposedly armed with the tools to live in truth, become those who live the biggest lie of all. Their minds become closed. I left because I need to be with people who can think for themselves, and I have found them.

    Humans must have freedom to develop; as one of your early patients said "You have to be a totally free human being to do this therapy". I doubt that anyone now still primals, though perhaps at yours. Perhaps.

    So i´m leaving the primal world for a real life, where I´m free to think and find my own path. I´ve wasted too much time in it. If you still wish to reply to me, i´d so love that, because I´m so so much more desperate than I can communicate to you here, and I try to resist the thoughts ever pressing on me which say "Life is just not worth it if you can´t live resolving the early uncompleted business within you"

    You are incredible: there´s no one to touch you

    1. And my answer: don't leave us,man, we need all of us to be unified. art

    2. I've had a few Primals. Only a handful but they worked wonders. I had a breakdown so maybe a lot of my pain spilled out unregulated. Oh bloody hell it did. Christ it did.

  4. Another email comment: That was beautiful writing which just about nailed your entire message!!
    All the best to you!

  5. Patient of janov in 1968-69. Pretty weird guy.he must still be.talked like he knew all the answers...gotta beware of those kind.i think he wrote the book about my group. Talk about mind control.whew. please read Bukowski, Celine, d.h. lawrence, Carson McCullers....if u know it all the how can u learn fairy tales for the kids.they learn the truth soon enough

    1. Still weird enough to publish your comment :-)


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.