Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Primo Levi

Yesterday was December 7, the anniversary of the start of WWII.    And now I have good friends who are German scientists. Before they might have designed bombs to kill Americans; now they are working on the cure for cancer.  My how life gets changed. And how enemies have changed, but watch out because we can turn anyone into an enemy; whether blacks or muslims or foreigners.   We just need a little encouragement.    And it will take hold if we live in our brain and do not have much of ourselves and are not based in our feelings.

Primo Levi the great Italian writer who was in a concentration camp for a long time wrote: “to create and maintain a war you first need to demonize the other side; make them “the  enemy”  the attackers, etc, so that they are bereft of any humanity”.  Then we can do inhuman acts to them and not feel anything.   That is the basic capacity of humans.  Not only to humans but animals and babies too where so many doctors previously felt that they never felt pain.
The first job of war is to dehumanize the “enemy”.  It is called “brainwashing” for good reason.  We have extracted the brain and left the body behind that might together with is feelings, indicate to us the truth.  And we see wild rejoicing in the ”booga booga” therapies because they imagine that they have been liberated just like those who have “mastered” their breathing in mindfulness, which I call “mindlessness”.  In France this is called “nonmbrilisme”*.  We no longer live in a social world; we inhabit a solipsistic one where only we exist. Ayayay.  Then we are satisfied to have access only to our thoughts and not to our feelings.   We continue what our unfeeling parents believed; that feelings are an anathema to be discouraged and disparaged.   That is how Hitler convinced the Germans that the Jews had to be destroyed.  And how we convince patients that feelings have to be either destroyed or ignored.  They become the enemy.  We don’t have to say it; we just ignore it and that sends the message; feelings do not count.

We need to extract their humanity out of them; then we are not hurting humans.  And it is very true of extracting our own humanity out of ourselves so that we can inflict pain on others with impunity; with not a drop of feeling.   As we grow up and undergo lack of love we hurt, but soon cover it over with repression; we cease to feel…..for others and above all, for ourselves.  We lack humanness.   If that could be stopped or averted we would not have a population that could hurt others, or go to hunt and kill animals and call it “sport.”  Above all, one could feel the needs of children and fulfill them.  What a world that would be.

So how do we dehumanize?  Oh wait.  I know.  We call people depressives or obsessives and now we treat a cerebral category, not a person.   Or we call our child “son” or “boy”?

These are tricks of the mind and from this we can see how a parent can inflict damage.  He is “son” or “daughter” and they are treated as such:  theirs not to question why.   Theirs but to do or die.   They are there to take orders because they are “my child.”  “Should we let children cry it out?”   We only ask that because children are no longer people. Should we cry it out?  Of course.  We ask that if we never have and were forbidden to.  And worse, we stop our children from expressing any feeling strongly.  We dehumanize.

It is the neocortex that can dehumanize ourselves and we then enter a therapy that is basically inhuman…..the property of a brain that thinks but does not feel.  And where do we get well?  In our head; the body is left out of the equation.  We become dehumanized and “think” we are so much better when all we have done is shift around the thinking cortex to adjust to our unconscious pain.  The feelings remain but are deeply hidden, and so is our humanity.

*Literally “navel-gazing”


  1. Art: What you say about even seemingly benign labelling such as "boy", "daughter" and so on dehumanising and therefore clearing the way for abuse, resonates with me because here in Portugal people habitually cal their sons and daughters "Filho" or Filha" - "son" or "daughter". They also rarely call animals by name. An animal is called by its species: "donkey", "dog" and so on. Even people who have known me for years call me "the gentleman" rather by name, as it customary here. It sounds respectful but I loathe it. It´s making me into a concept, an ideal, at one remove. All these labels dehumanise and deindividualise. If you are a concept rather than a feeling individual, then there are certain cultural associations to do with how to treat that concept. You hit a child. You kill an animal. But you can´t kill beloved Joey or Anna. Gary

  2. On Humanness versus Groupthink.

    Many Christians circumcise their newborns without anesthetic and support the death penalty in cases based on flawed forensics. Many Muslims accept the execution of rape victims. Currently the media is saying American values are based on unity and tolerance - regardless of individual beliefs or attitudes.

    Everything is confused because we rely on laws instead of deep human feelings.

    I think of the time Art suggested I kick my dentist in the butt for drilling into my tooth without anesthetic and causing mind-blowing pain. Art was right. My dentist needed to wake up.

    Humanness is not always peaceful and tolerant. Humanness is about feeling reality and responding to it. I don't like the thoughtless view of "American values" and I don't like the thoughtless view of "protecting the good guys". Both sides of the argument are equally arrogant. Politicians should be less arrogant, and more interested in psychology and the origin of all antisocial behaviour.

    1. For that Richard people would need to vote for genuine medics and doctors to be our politicians and then those docs would probably turn the job down due to the pressing need to care for the sick & needy. . .
      I wish there were short term things we could do to change this sorry charade where the world of humans seems to be an act out of the compartentalised state of our minds.

      Paul G.

  3. An email comment:
    "Art: Thanks on behalf of those billions of animals condemned to horrific deaths each week in abattoirs for giving them a voice here. And if anyone is tired of me banging on about this, tough shit. Art has said on more than one occasion what animal rights activists have been saying for decades: that animals have the same feeling base as ourselves. I submit that only an unfeeling world can believe otherwise. The question is: why do we believe they DON´T feel? Not why do we believe they DO? We know HERE that humans are naturally feeling and it is therefore abhorrent to inflict pain on them, so why the resounding silence when I describe the gravity and magnitude of pain inflicted on animals? Have people here yet to divest themselves of the daily conditioning of a lifetime in which meat, dairy and fish went unquestionned at the dinner table and animals were treated as of little importance, dispensable, of little value? Who are humans to condemn all other sopecies to pain, misery and death in factory farms? There is a relatively new "ism" to add to the PC ones of racism, sexism and homophobia. It is "speciesism", and it dehumanises animals just as Jews, Gays, blacks, native Americans...any group you care to mention who has ever been shat on just so the abusers don´t have to feel bad....Look at any slaughterhouse employee or vivisectionist or hunter and their attitudes to animals are always demonising and offensive. They have to be. They´re also invariably WRONG.

    Look at it this way. You have say, a pet dog or cat who you love. Imagine that pet living from birth in a pen so small it cannot turn round, with only a cold hard metal or concrete floor to sleep on, its teeth crushed, often illegally without anaesthetic, so it cannot in its neurotic frustration chew the tail of the dog in front of it, and therefore capable of subsisting only on unnutritious swill, most of its life spent with some or another serious digestive disease resulting in vomiting and diarrhoea, the growth hormones in its food forcing unnatural growth so rapid it often results in disfigured bonés or worse broken ones. Left untreated. Surrounded by the sick and often dead. After just a few months taken to the abattoir for slaughter, knowing for some time before it is brutally butchered that it will die as it hears the screams and smells the blood of those preceeding it, panicking and frantically scrabbling in terror to escape. Welcome to factory farming. I guess many people in NAZI Germany turned a blind eye to all the Jews being murdered - and gays, gypsies and the "mentally" ill, let´s not forget them - because they were made by NAZI propaganda into something less than human. Now please, before you next eat meat, dairy, fish or cheese, think of why it is that you see the life of the animal you are about to eat as worth nothing, or less than yours. WHY?? It´s easy for to dehumanise other humans in order to abuse and kill them. Hitler would never have gotten away with it had he not had the fertile soil of the unfeeling neurotic in which to grow his insane ideas. So how much easier is it to do so with non humans...so much easier to persuade oneself they don´t feel because they´re different. So....convenient for the meat and dairy and fish industry to refer to them as "pork", "ham", "bacon" "beef", to "protein", "human nutritional requirements" (Now there´s the unforgiveable lie), rather than pigs, cows. hens, and so on. This Xmas may be a time of joy and peace for you, but for millions of animals a terrifying bloodbath. think about it. Gary

    1. Gary, I agree with everything you say and I have feelings on this matter too. But I still think you're acting out your own pain through identifying with animal pain. Sorry to be blunt Gary. Others have been blunt about the truth to me too. I would prefer that than pseudo community.

      I may be wrong but It's hard to get to know someone who discusses the pain of others to the exclusion of direct relations.

      When I was much younger I had several motorcycles including a 650 Triumph which I 'loved; I upgraded it, I took it apart and put it back together again, I fixed it, I maintained it. . . after a while I noticed other people were asking me MORE about the state of my motorcycle than my state and I realised I had a problem. Then, having gotten rid of motorcycles (they nearly killed me)and tried to form relationships with people, I began the long and arduous task of discovering I actually had a problem with relationships.

      I still do; I still find myself attracted to others who suffer the same way, or so it seems. Each of us looking through the distorting lens of our own projections and unmet need. Each trying so hard to be ourselves but succumbing to alternatives. I have nearly convinced myself I don't deserve real relationships any more. . . Now I can feel really sorry for myself. . . It's endless, like abreaction. . .

      Just because something is true it doesn't follow that making it into a belief system will make things better. Truths are often 'stolen' from the real movers and shakers by those with 'an axe to grind'. . .

      That pun IS intended.

      Paul G.

  4. Interesting post Art. Here in the Scotland in the UK it is common for most dads to refer to their son as ‘the wee man’ (the small man). It’s almost second nature, especially in male groups. I’m taking the ‘wee man’ to the football game, I’m baby-sitting for the ‘wee man’ while the wife is out, how is the ‘wee man’ doing etc., etc.? Never, I am taking my son Arthur out to watch the football, or my son is doing well, or my son Arthur loves the baseball etc. It’s always ‘the wee man’.

    Sadly it is fashionable and trendy here to refer to your son this way. It’s cool. It’s hip, especially when you are talking to your male friends over a few beers. Try referring to your child as ‘my son’, or by his first name and you might get some strange looks. And try asking, as I have often done, why they refer to their child this way and you will get even more strange looks with equally strange comments. I’m old fashioned, what’s my problem, don’t be so staid etc.

    I have always felt there is a lack of some feeling here. In a sense a keeping of real feelings at arm’s length, almost as if men must deny their true feelings particularly in the presence of their male peers.

    Kind regards


  5. Paul

    Perhaps you are unaware of this but your responses to my pleas for compassion to animals invariably assume unawareness on my part of the part played by my own pain in what I write. You then act on this assumption by attempting to clarify for me what you assume I don´t know.

    The fact that I generally leave myself out of my animal posts does not mean I am oblivious to the connection. I know my pain plays a major role. That does not mean that you can dismiss what I say. The danger of your "psychologising" what I do is that other members on this blog may see it all as my craziness and sit down to enjoy their "meat" and "fish" with a relieved conscience. It is far from just my own neurosis. There are countless animal rights organisations all over the world which are extremely well informed, competent, sane and dedicated to ending the unspeakably horrendous abomination of all forms of animal abuse. I have worked with many of them as a volunteer and can assure you that they know exactly what they are doing and very many of them hurt like hell for those billions of animals who are treated as no more than unfeeling trash for their entire lives.

    What motivates me Paul, has nothing to do with any belief system but everything to do with heart and gut-ache when I read, for example:

    "We bear witness as a community of pigs, cows, chickens and other farmed animal victims in slaughterhouse trucks. The animals want us to be present and, with the most pleading eyes, ask for our help when we see them through the portholes of transport trucks. Just as if we were in those horrid trucks, we would want the whole community to be there fighting for our freedom, liberation, rights, and equality" (torontopigsave)

    You ASSUME obsessiveness rather than heartache and feeling, uncritical acceptance of what I read rather than critical evaluation. I am not a follower and certainly not a "group-thinker". I feel. Punto. So when you wrote to me recently on this blog that "I no longer trust you as a human being" because you chose to believe your own groundless accusation that I might "act out some perverse act of revenge in the name of animal rights", my heart sank because I knew you were talking from your own issues, whatever they may be. Perhaps succumbing to constant media demonising of animal rights activists as "terrorists" and "extremists"? Jesus, what we have to contend with...Or some sort of primal anxiety triggered by any writing in which the author does not also honestly include himself? Art hardly included himself in any of his books, so do you not trust him either? Or anyone who writes a serious study on anything in which pain and suffering are involved??

    So please Paul, stop trying to "enlighten" me, to shine your own light in my supposed darkness. If I do not to include all the connections implicit in what I say, that means neither that I am unaware of them, or that the connections you fill in their place are correct. they are not. When you label animal rights activists as "movers and shakers", as a long term animal rights activist, I find your language both ludicrously misguided and offensive. Gary


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.