Saturday, April 2, 2016

More on Feelings

A story from my life.   I had just finished writing the Primal Scream which sold in the millions worldwide.  Before the sale,  a copy of my manuscript was lying on the kitchen table.  My father came in for his yearly visit and walked by the kitchen to see his grandchildren.  On his way in he saw the manuscript and asked what it was.  I told him it was a book I just finished called the Primal Scream.   He walked by and rummaged through the pages in about one minute, not reading any of it and said, “we know all that”.  And walked on.  That was what he thought of my years of work. He denigrated me and made me feel stupid daily and so when it looked like I did something smart he had to dismiss it. He was terrified of looking and being dumb.  He never considered the impact it had on me; it was part of his daily rituals, “Hey stupid, hand me that tool.”

His only way to feel superior was to make me feel inferior, like he felt down deep.  And throughout my early life I felt completely stupid; never once thought of going to college, convinced I could never make it.

My early primals were always, “Say I’m OK, just once, please“. Never to come   “I begged, could you cherish me a little?  Say I’m good.  Tell me that you like me.   I am your son.    He could not because he felt the same way, and could not offer anything to me because his whole system needed it first.  There was never a book, a record or even a magazine in the house.  All he read were detective horror murder stories with those ugly drawings accompanying them.  Of course my mother was illiterate so she could never read; she signed with an “X”. We never had one conversation in her whole life.  She lived on a different planet.   My father treated us like dogs.  He never talked directly to us and when they left to go to the insane asylum for my mother for years there was not a minute of explanation.  We were given over to strangers; my sister to another strange family.    We were never close after that.

What  I hear in patients who are primaling,  when I ask them to beg their parents for love, “What’s the use, they are unfeeling robots so what is the point”?  The point is that this need for approval and love is still there and never goes away.  It has to be relived; it is their own private feelings inside them no matter how robotic parents are.  I too felt, what is the use?  But I know I had to feel that deep deep need and be rid of it.  So I needed to plead to my father just once: “Say I’m good, please just once, say I’m good.” ……… Never.

Of course in school I get involved with the most critical colleagues and tried to make them like me; what a struggle;  all driven by feeling so unliked.  Just like my father who felt like a failure and finally as I wrote previously: he was  driving down the street, I was twenty something  and without looking at me, staring straight ahead, bemoans, “I feel like a failure”.  There it was, twenty years late and much too late to change the deep-seeded imprint that destroyed my life. He never looked at me. He just had to get this feeling out to no one in particular. It was his mini-primal. It was never the same problem with my mother because she was lost in her world and had no plans for me; never knew where I went to school or if I went to school and did not care. I played hookey a lot,  missed key classes. It was no loss as I was so anxious I could not listen or pay attention and certainly could never learn.  (All my class notes say, Janov is nervous).  But she never tried to make me into anything and that was life-saving. They were Russian peasants, after all, chased out of Russia by the Cossacks. They never had a life, either. I fell close to the tree but fought my way out of. I discovered something to save my life; and oh yes, the lives of many others.

So now if you ask if I started out to change the world?  I would say “No, I just never wanted the world to change me.  I never wanted to join their world. That would have been the end of me”.


  1. Hello Art!
    One more of your fantastic post!
    "So now if you ask if I started out to change the world? I would say “No, I just never wanted the world to change me. I never wanted to join their world. That would have been the end of me”". Yes... we should be at the wrong part of our brain then to possible help ourselves! But we also need to be where we are to get the opportunity to be at the right place in our brain because we are to lost to do anything like it by our self... we do not know what to say or do. I know you help but most of us need the opportunity to get the help we need.

    Your Frank

  2. Hello Art!
    One more of your fantastic post!
    "So now if you ask if I started out to change the world? I would say “No, I just never wanted the world to change me. I never wanted to join their world. That would have been the end of me”". Yes... we should be at the wrong part of our brain then to possible help ourselves! But we also need to be where we are to get the opportunity to be at the right place in our brain because we are to lost to do anything like it by our self... we do not know what to say or do. I know you help but most of us need the opportunity to get the help we need.

    Your Frank

  3. Dr. Janov,
    You wrote: “I feel like a failure”. How do you feel today?

    For what my five cent wisdom is worth, you are great wonderful and a human being I love and respect.
    You gave me the key to a door, a door I know exists somewhere, but couldn’t find in my ever present pain.
    You not only gave me the key, you showed me the reason why I must open this door
    – it is the door to consciousness.
    I’m forever grateful to you.

    You ask: “So now if you ask if I started out to change the world? I would say “No, I just never wanted the world to change me. I never wanted to join their world. That would have been the end of me”.
    I’m so glad that you never joined their world, because you would have changed and never written any of your books the world so desperately need.
    BTW, I think the same way. I never liked to be someone else.

  4. A little can go a long way...a parent has a responsibility to their child. Not only the responsibility of caring and teaching them how to be in life, they have the responsibility to recognize a child who is doing well, and to make sure that they (the parent )have the ability to know this and acknowledges, relays this fact to their child. Now, in this world, the way kids are...they may not even listen to the parent who may tell them how good they are doing. But still a lot of children do listen when their parents acknowledge that the child has done well. Not to acknowledge a child when they are doing well, is such a waste. Now the parent doesn't really think about how the relationship will be with their child before it is born; because it is not a "spontaneous" thought; spontaneity is what is "out there today". Sure being spontaneous is a good thing at times, but in the case of being a parent and giving no thought to their child's mental well-being; spontaneity is not good in that case. Some do take an interest; those that do are showing love and not mental abuse. Common sense; use common sense when being a parent. What just because the parent never received acknowledgement from their parents then their own child must suffer? To acknowledge that a child is doing well, and to tell that child periodically, is a good thing for parent/child relationship. Does one have so little a heart and not enough brains to give their own child a "boost" with their lives ? A "mental boost".
    Now it's not even that with so many's that many of them are just "lost" and don't even know how to parent. They want to be in with "the era" and that is showing uncaring cold aggressiveness (as many teenagers are now; which is sad). Just a recognition and acknowledgement from a parent to a good child; that is part of the love.

  5. Hi Art,

    I wonder if you have encountered the 'Slow Movement'?

    perhaps some of the people involved might be interested in Primal as 'Slow' seems to appeal to the parasympathetic in us. That as you said in some much earlier posts seems to be the nervous system function that allows for access to imprints. . . Thus by proxy, Primal is already an unwitting member of the 'Slow Movement'.

    Check out Carl Honore and:

    Professor Guttorm Fløistad who summarised the philosophy thus:

    "The only thing for certain is that everything changes. The rate of change increases. If you want to hang on you better speed up. That is the message of today. It could however be useful to remind everyone that our basic needs never change. The need to be seen and appreciated! It is the need to belong. The need for nearness and care, and for a little love! This is given only through slowness in human relations. In order to master changes, we have to recover slowness, reflection and togetherness. There we will find real renewal."

  6. There is a fence, a fence between the world that wants me to conform and and be normal, and me who want to be myself. It's lonely on my side, but I feel there is life here, real life. And I enjoy it.

  7. Ya have to feel it to heal it.

  8. An email comment:
    "Wow Art: However did you manage to make it??????? Had that been me, I am, sure I would have died. It boggles my mind to think you got a bachelors let alone a masters and a PhD. What a great, great story.."

  9. I think this is one of your best contributions to date Art - it's personal, direct, heartfelt and purposeful and is devoid of intellectual clinical mumbo-jumbo - more of this please.

  10. Hi Art,
    some days ago I went through the throes!! of a 88 years...Lady(?9 the mother of my suicided friend?
    She treated me with disrespect,cynical, and full of hatred!

    I wonder how on earth someone of that Age could be that infamous ...
    I hope that if I ever would reach that Age I will be mor of your
    "style" treating People.
    Yours emanuel
    I wonder why on earth someone that old... can be so full of hate, denigrating me,being cynical toward m e ...!

    I once was the "waste -bag" -in earnest- of him and his whole Family!

    As You Show it ; old -Age cannot be the culprit of being like her.

    If ever reach that Age ... I hope I will be more like You!!!
    Yours emanuel

  11. I can so relate to this story about human meanness, made more acute because it comes from a parent, and a psycho Western culture that still demands that one should honor one's mother and father no matter what (to hell with that!).My own story revolves around my mother's obsession that I was lazy, lazy, lazy, lazy.Nothing I could say could convince her otherwise, including that I was first in my class, and that took some work. But no: her fascist hate towards me would still spew out. Dirty lazy disgusting Marco. While the "nice" old man would walk away not defending me, but at least not contributing to the hate.He would come out with some stupid banality like : "can't we just get along?" . Answer: NO! Decades later, even if things are better, I still feel that I have never been able to really get to the root of the problem between my mother and I, some unconscious fixation that has never been severed.Perhaps this pleading for love might result in some breakthrough, but, I must say, my first reaction to this pleading for love is: I won't give her or anyone else the satisfaction to know that she hurt me. Rather, I will fight back and resist as I have all my life. ( "The angry man is the unloved man..."- Janov, The Primal Scream )

    I saw some similarities with my situation in a book I read recently called " Will there ever be a morning?" , which is the autobiography of a woman who was a famous actress at one time, Francis Farmer ( 30s and 40s). She had a wild temper and very negative reputation in Hollywood ( aspects of which she justifiably hated), was alcoholic, yet was highly sensitive and artistic. Her parents put here away in an asylum for 8 years, in the late 40s and early 50s, a totally unjustified commitment in a squalid cruel institution. Anyways, her and her psycho eccentric mother seemed to be locked in an unending battle which neither could sever or understand.


  12. Beautiful and humbling, it made me feel, thanks ;-)

  13. Thank you for reading the blog. art


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.