Saturday, March 12, 2016

Epigenetics and Primal Therapy: The Cure for Neurosis (Part 20/20)... the End

When is that point? 

We cannot change personality so long as the imprint remains to drive us; and the little love we get later on may not be enough to allow us to change direction. And more, the shutoff that occurs with gestation and birth trauma may be so great that we are helpless before it. We no longer can let love in; we first have to feel agonizingly unloved by our parents. We cannot purposefully open up because we are then open to great pain. The pain has to be out of the way first.

Why do we have to feel unloved first? Because it is a memory sealed in and engraved thanks to the process of methylation. That chemical helps to make sure the memory lives on in our memory bank. Once we address the imprinted memory and help to undo the methylation process, the system opens up all on its own. We need to undo repression so that we can feel again. When we "feel" unloved we begin to feel once again. If we open up first to any feeling we will be overwhelmed with pain. If we gain access slowly over time to lesser hurts we will not. We will be on the road to fully feeling.

An article in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health sheds light on this problem by analyzing the quality of interactions between mothers and their children. Researchers from Duke, Brown and Harvard universities conducted a long-term study of 482 adults, using data from the National Collaborative Perinatal Project (NCPP), a Rhode Island, New Jersey-based observational cohort of pregnant women and their children (Maselko, 2010). The researchers observed the interactions between mother and child at the age of eight months. Those mother-child exchanges were then classified as high- or low-loving interactions. Decades later, the children were studied again as adults. The mothers who were judged most loving produced offspring who were low on anxiety, hostility and general distress. There was more than a seven-point difference in anxiety scores between loved and unloved children, and a three- point differential in hostility scores. Unloved offspring are more hostile. In brief, the higher the mother’s warmth, the lower the score in distress.

Doesn't that tell us a great deal? And it means that very early love is so, so important. Without it we have a damaged soul, someone more likely to fall ill and who has poor social skills. That lack of love makes us unable to interact lovingly with other adults, decades later. Affection is all, even if we had first line pain. You cannot as a parent say, “My children know I love them. I just can’t show it.” Sorry, that is not good enough. It is like saying I know my child is hungry but I cannot feed him. There is that need for warmth that cannot be abrogated. Love is love and there is no compromise. Either you love or you don’t and it will show up decades later in the feelings and behavior of the person. We can “smell” a loved person; they exude it in every pore, in every word and every movement.

I have for decades stressed the importance of early love in preventing the suffering we see in so many patients who didn’t get it. Now, science has found the means to prove the point. As the authors of the maternal love study concluded, “It is striking that a brief observation of level of maternal warmth in infancy is associated with distress in adult offspring 30 years later,” stated lead study author Joanna Maselko, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University. “These provocative findings add to the growing evidence that early childhood helps sets the stage for later life experiences and provide support for the notion that biological 'memories' laid down early may alter psychological and physiological systems and produce latent vulnerabilities or resilience to problems emerging later in adulthood."21

Epigenetics is all about experience, about nurture over nature. And in a dialectical process, nurture can become nature; that is, the system treats the intruder of experience as genetic and heritable. And we then confuse the two in trying to understand it. In Primal Therapy, we are the dealers in experience because we have seen what experience does to us, especially very early pre- verbal experience. If one sees one primal one knows for all time how crucial experience is in the scheme of things. The cause is rarely a brain disease. That is an answer concocted by those who fiddle around in neurons and synapses and do not see the brain reacting to experience. If we leave out experience we are bereft of what can give us answers. We see only the end result and miss half of the puzzle. It is like looking at diabetics and never knowing what they eat. If we leave out the first three years in an orphanage can you wonder that we can never know what the matter is? Thinking it is a brain disease is the result of another more serious disease: solipsism.

And neither is the problem “all in your head,” as mindfulness and other cognitive therapies suggest. A true cure can never happen with a cognitive therapy that never touches deep-lying imprints that deviated and deviate the system. Intellectual therapies never operate on the levels that set off deviations. They operate on the derivatives, the effluvia of the early imprints such as deviations in perception or thought patterns or learning. Treating all that never makes a profound change. And who suffers? The patient.

But isn’t this what medicine today is about – treating symptoms? Lowering blood pressure, giving allergy medication, restructuring behavior. It is called “whack-a-mole.” Every time a symptom shows up, just whack it back. And don’t ask where it all came from? Experience takes a back seat as we slither down into the depths and minutia of the brain seeking answers that do not exist there, and never will.

I offer a rather immodest proposal. In our coming brain research we hope to measure the process of demethylation so that we have a quantitative measure of progress and the diminution of repression. In brief, we shall measure pain and how it is stored and where. It may then be possible in this way to undo the driving force of aberrant behavior and the manifestation symptoms. This is to say, that we hope to reduce the primal traces on the genes that have driven behavior for most of our lives. To add to the immodesty, this will mean reversing history and undoing imprints that have held our lives in such constrained fashion, reducing our options for behavior, and reducing physical afflictions.

If our hypotheses confirm our expectations, I believe it will change the face of psychotherapy as we know it. We will let science answer. But, I must add that in addition to science, we have been doing exactly that, reversing the imprint for thousands of patients over almost fifty years with highly significant results. That too, is science at work. We apply our theory to the treatment of patients so that eventually we leave the realm of theory and see the results in the flesh and blood of our people. Theory becomes palpable, in the literal sense of the term. We see it in our addicts who leave drugs far behind, and we measure this “cure” by the reduced traces of trauma on the genes. And, of course, we see their whole lives change after therapy. They no longer think of drugs but make choices in life that are not directed by pain, but by freedom of choice. Then and only then, can we use the word “cure.”

21: Brauser, D. (2010, July 28). High Levels of Early Maternal Affection May Lower Emotional Distress in Adult Offspring. Retrieved from


  1. “We can not change personality so long as . . .”

    We can change some aspects of it but certainly not anything drastic. For that, PT is the answer.
    Just my thinking on the matter.

    1. Hi apollo,

      having done extensive personality typing training in panels involving groups of us recalling personal testimonies of ourselves as a 'type', and also experiencing the resultant temporary break through to true feelings, I am sure personality can broaden, become more flexible and soften. However, the problem with 'exercises' like these (they are a kind of sophisticated & emotive gestalt) is that they tend to make traumas less accessible. Why? because these 'exercises' make our personality more adaptable and therefore more expertly defensive. This may be a good thing for some but the hazard is in obfuscating access to trauma. The outcome being a new form of 'pseudo - community'. Whereas, I imagine the result of working in Primal groups would result in permanent reduction of early imprints, allowing members to relate with much less of the filter of personality. Personality as a defense would adapt according to reduction in traumatic pressure and thus allow a different relationship, perhaps more loving in 'community'.

      So many of the 'workshops' I have done did no more than re-arrange my neurosis and fool me into thinking I had gained an 'inch' in life. . .

      Paul G.

  2. "...make choices in life that are not directed by pain..."

    i think it is important to warn all parents in US and around the world about the sport activities they choose for their children. just few days ago a watched a movie "Concussion" and Dr. Bennet Omalu lecture on the subject. it is one of those discoveries that are really matter of common sense. now that i watched it, it makes sense to me, at least.

    therapy is not over at the session. it is when it's results are applied in making good decisions. because the science of it just won't be available and often it is just not enough.

    1. vuko,
      "Therapy is not over at the session"; this is true. But many people don't pay any attention to their feelings, and although they may think that they are trying to make right decisions, sometimes they are unfortunately making the wrong choices. Nowadays it seems people of any age are too caught up in the "social hoopala" that is out there, and don't give a thought to feelings or the possibility of going to a therapist. Sure I'm all for someone having a good time whenever they feel they are up to it, but for some it is habitual, and they don't even think ever about how they are feeling as a human being (if they are "up to going out that day or night socially")...they just go out , crowd their busy work week with socializing every night or every other night or spend a lot of time on facebook or talking with friends, "networking". Then the weekend comes, and that is "booked". It's like "get the schedule as hectic as possible, and forget about feelings of any sort, especially about the way they are feeling. Well. some do this, and they think at times they make right choices, but they are socially pushed many times now. Some find it hard just to say "no". Some , although they try to make the right choices, get burned out , and what good does that do for them or for anybody.

    2. there is also a related research about the effect of so called "blast over-pressure" (high explosive blasts in combat zones) on brain tissue. brain doesn't seem to like it. duh? "... a mild blast exposure, which is a common occurrence among OEF/OIF/OND service members, might elicit CNS disturbances capable of setting the stage for long-term tau pathology."

      i read that during WW2 US navy used 16 inch (406mm) caliber cannons on their war ships. those could load 1200kg shells to hit targets 30km away!? friendly fire blasts could maybe produce dangerously strong pressure on the brains of soldiers on board.

      high impact sports somehow became very profitable business all over the world. the rush of conflict. the near danger. projected. acted in and out. should we say> in the land of the prisoners and scared ones...

    3. Vuko: I was next to the 16 inch gun mount during the war, and most of us in the crew went partially deaf due to the blast. Every blast moved us 16 feet to the side. It was never NEAR danger; it was immediate danger with enemy all around us. art

    4. "No neurochemical evidence of brain injury after blast overpressure by repeated explosions or firing heavy weapons."
      it is reassuring to read that. at least for the method they used and caliber they used.

      what is the caliber of near death first line reaction? are our souls a battlefield that reflect in our dangerous behaviors and destructive chemical processes in out tissues? how early can we suffer inflammation in utero? week 1, 10, 20? can life grow where the bomb exploded? if yes, what are the preconditions? what does it look like? is it enough for prevention?
      is there a book in writing about it?

  3. Vuko, very interesting lecture by Dr. Omalu. He commented that when he saw football players wearing helmets it must be a dangerous sport. We can hope parents will listen and keep kids from playing brain-damaging sports.

    As for belief in primal theory, it may take that brain-measuring science to convince finally the psychological community of this as a way to undo our damage. Hope that it works out well. We here are already believers, though. Good luck, Art.

  4. An email comment:
    Can somebody be both intelligent, honest and psychotherapist at the same time?

    The Inventor of the Primal Principle / Evolution in Reverse wrote in a blog: "Truth needs no defense except when that truth is more than the organism can integrate. That is why many therapists, in the booga booga dominated world, live inside their defense. They no longer feel the truth of their pain.” Therefore, I would like to know how “honesty” is defined between the 200.000 shrinks in the USA.

    My header is a paraphrase of an old joke I borrowed from a cancer scientist and author who experienced the difficult political reversals, with profound implications during 60/70ies in Hungary. Since I, as a Swede, was exposed to the same joke myself in the United States, I will tell the “joke”:
    One can not be intelligent, honest and psychotherapist simultaneously. All two-combinations may occur, but never the three-combination. Being intelligent and psychotherapist, one was not honest. An honest psychotherapist is not regarded as intelligent and an intelligent and honest person would not be a psychotherapist.

    A joke can ease a suffering but never dissolve repressed pain. The joke can make the repressed pain more bearable. Apart from the evolutionary repression of pain, explain how else we can accept each second to surround ourselves with lies so they fit into our lives. Mor or less sophisticated needs/neurosis/lies make us belong to a pattern, a culture, a faculty, a treatment etc. etc.

    During many years of analysis and findings, which Alice Miller and professional colleagues conducted, there was an almost consistent pattern among those who studied psychoanalysis: They had a basically emotionally insecure mother. An unconscious, intuitive ability to feel and live with the parents' needs was a function that they, unknowingly, had internalized. This surrogate for love charged the child to fill a need valuable for its potential careers. It is no wonder that they, as adults, often chose to become psychotherapists. Without this childhood's fate, who could mobilize interest to days on end seek to explore what goes on in their patients' unconscious?

  5. Part 2:
    Many, especially in the US, are hesitant to accept the truth of evolution and at the end of the day, they prefer Genesis. That is their way, obeying to the fourth commandment, to forgive their parents for a loveless old-fashined upbringing and unconsciously to go on with it. Fortunately, evolution is so rational and smart that it counteract our failures and abuses, however at a high fee = deep depression when we do not obey the law of life of love, touch and attention. We understand when we see the official US statistics below:

    Percentage of persons age 12 and over by depressive symptom severity
    and race and Hispanic origin:

    Race and ethniticy Depressive symptom severity Percent Std.error
    All persons
    No symptom 77,2 0.8
    Mild 15,3 0.5
    Moderate 4,7 0.3
    Severe 2.9 0.2
    No symptom 73.9 1.3
    Mild 16.7 0.8
    Moderate 5.7 0.6
    Severe 3,7 0.5

    Non-Hispanic black
    No symptom 73,2 1.0
    Mild 17.1 0.7
    Moderate 5.6 0.4
    Severe 4.1 0.5
    Non-Hispanic white
    No symptom 78.5 1.0
    Mild 14.6 0.7
    Moderate 4.3 0.4
    Severe 2.6 0.3

    This statistic if from the economically richest country in the world. With a population of 322.000.000 that makes 20.000.000 people with moderate or severe depressive symptoms. Add to that 40.000.000 people with mild symptoms.

    I admire Dr. Janov that he continues his dream / obsession of a general feeling / demethylation therapy. 50 yeras after his breakthrough and improvements in the Primal Principle, the situation in the worldwhen it comes to mental suffering and repressed pain, is certainly no better. However, how can 200.000 shrinks look themselves into their eyes when they judge their professional contribution in the light of the above statistics. The shrinks no. 1 supporter, the pharmaceutical industry, of course, sees my question as an insult. And so does all those who receive their paychecks from them.
    My suspicion of the honesty of these 200.000 shrinks (with few exceptions) is challenging. They no longer feel the truth of their own pain. They are evolutionary prison guards in the treadmill of pain. They have in many cases given up their original psychotherapeutic ambitions and turned into prescription writers.

  6. Another email comment:

    Dear Art.

    Today I dreamed few Dreas. First I’ve get Lester from sou J Secondo it was a nightmare with pure terror, someone would like to kill me. Today morning, at new job, still the same. I am still in place whre I shouldn’t. Invigilation, treating people like slaves. I wake up in the morning and I want to say good night. My whole life is builded up on child trauma. There are some people who I tried to explain what it is all about and as it is not hard to imagine that they pissed me off and everyone tells me that I need treatment in hospital. Yes, give me pills, more pills. Shut off my soul. I am deep in shit, and frankly speaking I don’t see exit doors. Sometime I think about suicide, shot in the head.
    When my mother was pregnant she used to hit stomach and tell “I don’t want this baby (me)”. I know that my parents had hard life conditions, my father were beaten by his father.
    My mother told me that when I’ve born I always cry, cry, cry. Later I had hernia. It passed 8 months and they’ve taken me to hospital to perform surgery. From early childhood I remember only fight between my parents. My mother could tell me few times per day that she loved me, but for me it was a lie. But what I could do? Nothing, just try to hide. My mother always tried to destroy my dating with girls, she “talked” with them and teach moral rules. She killed me so many times.

    Art, please don't stop publishing on your blog until you have a strength.

    1. And my answer: Don't worry, I have plenty of strength. art

  7. Art
    You mentioned in Primal scream that you come up with idea of primal pain when you saw screaming man during psychoterapy sesion. You've succeded, no one baffled you. How is it possible?

  8. An email comment:
    "Wonderful! Clear! The clouding of cause is dispersed and the clear skies of sanity revealed.

    Bravo Arthur Janov, how wonderful your message, may it become a revolution throughout society world wide.


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.