Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Pollyanna Effect of Looking for the Positive

This article first published on this blog in August 2010, but I think it is very important. So I decided to publish it again. art

Inner tranquilizers have a Pollyanna effect. They permit us to "look on the bright side" of belief rather than the "dark side" of ourselves. The Reagan years were characterized by someone who always did look on the bright side. That optimism was infectious even though it may have been unreal. It was adopted by those who did not want to explore the past and feelings. He was perfect for that— a man with little access to feelings who constructed a weltanschauung of denial and joy. If we ask people whether they would vote for pain and liberation or joy, the answer is a foregone conclusion. The man who took a bullet in the head for him during the assassination attempt was almost never visited by him in the hospital. Could he feel for this crippled human being? Reagan continued to vote against gun control. Ideas took precedence over feelings. After all, he was shot, as well, by a maniac who should have never have had a gun. Logic cannot dictate when buried feelings, transformed into an ironclad political belief system, trump reason. When your insides are turned inside out you can easily view the world from a warped perspective. Sometimes you get so “positive” that you slip into Pollyanna and that is where you stay: banal, cliché, unreal.

A belief system or other symptoms is often where the pain goes. Let us not treat the symptom — let us treat the cause. A simple example: A patient could not be alone without a terrible feeling welling up in her. She was left alone for weeks after birth and then again at six months of age when her mother had to return to the hospital for cancer treatment. Aloneness and bad feelings were imprinted. Any approach that ignores the profound feeling lodged in her brain was bound to fail. She had gone to psychoanalysis previously and learned that she was left alone with babysitters throughout her childhood. This was true, but was only the top level of a nerve network that spun down to the brainstem.
Beliefs, in this sense, are like ulcers or migraines. There are levels of causes on the various levels of consciousness.
As I said, it is not the content of a belief system that matters, but what draws us toward ideas and beliefs, and what makes beliefs so important to us, so enduring and how the nerve cells in the brain relate to each other. In short, why do we believe?

All belief systems have something in common. They are maps, something to help us navigate through life more effectively. And belief systems all respond to an almost universal, hard-wired need. It is not that we need to believe; we believe because we need. And the pollyannas do not think; they rely on slogans. Those run her life. That is why slogans are so important in an election. It is what hang onto instead of thinking through matters.

All of us are programmed to some extent to reject and deny the voice of our feelings. That is the function of belief systems: to quiet the feeling that there is no one to care for us, to protect us, to love us, that the "meaning of life" is endless pain. The drug of belief anesthetizes. It is why one can give up drugs and alcohol and fall into a belief system. They both inject painkillers into the system.

Just as someone lacking sugar or iron automatically seeks out what he needs in foods, a person carrying around imprinted pain may automatically lock into belief systems. Instead of trying to feel the void that lurks inside the hidden crevices of the unconscious, the believer rises above hopelessness and helplessness into "salvation." Sometimes he goes so far as to adopt a new name, a new identity. Susan becomes Saraswati, Robert becomes Rama, as if to say, "I
am not even me anymore" (the pained me) "I am someone else." What is he saved from? Himself. One patient came to us from a cult, which she entered because of chronic anorexia. She relived a feeling in our therapy: "What’s the use of eating if no one loves me or wants me alive?" The leader reassured her that he did. All she had to do was give him her car and the money she had in the bank. She did. Because he said he wanted her to get well. He told her that he wanted her. It was irresistible. And women will give up their bodies easily when someone combats their feeling of being unwanted by telling her how badly she is wanted.


Sometimes people only respond to feelings and vote for political candidates who reflect them. But often they vote for an idea that reflects their underlying needs and feelings: e.g., "This man will make our country safe." We can ignore the reality of what he does because his rhetoric soothes apprehensions and salves fear. But of course, the leader has to first install fear — the enemy is planning secret attacks. Then, I will protect you by arming heavily.
"Yes, yes I will vote for more and more arms so I can feel safe." Too often individuals vote their feelings in the guise of an idea. The more neurotic (heavily repressed) a person is, the greater the distance between his ideas and feelings — what I call the Janovian gap — the more symbolic her ideas. By neurotic I mean someone with a high degree of imprinted, blocked pain that distorts the whole system physically and psychologically. It is not just that someone has far- out ideas. They are linked into a major system. They have anchors into a personality. There are certain traumas imprinted in the system that require repression, and the interplay between them is the hub of neurosis. The outcome of that interaction, the resulting symptoms, is what we generally call neurosis.

Belief systems are just another form of symptoms. They do not spring full blown out of the air. There are historical causes. Once we understand this, we can see how one can give up drugs and booze in favor of being born-again; ideas smother the pains just as well as, if not better than, drugs. That is why those who are unwell will tend to fall ill prematurely, stricken by an internal reality of which they are not aware. The more warped the ideas, the more likely the person will have a warped physiology, and vice versa. It isn’t just ideas we are dealing with; it is a whole human being whose ideas reflect his buried needs and feelings.

Twisted ideas and beliefs, in my view, presage a shorter lifespan. The system is neurotic not just one’s beliefs. In psychoanalysis and cognitive therapy they tend to help change ideas without realizing that they part and parcel of a human, and a human with a history. And of course, there are the various tests for progress in therapy usually of the verbal variety so that if one says one is better, one is considered better. Or on certain questions, "Are you more comfortable with yourself now after therapy?" We see that the more one is defended and thereby feels more comfortable, the more progress we consider the patient has made. Trick is get people to focus on the positive, on the external while those little political devils are manipulating our insides with their slogans.


  1. And when people still collapses by suffering... such treatment should be economical viable... which is a political statement. That shows the diabolical truth you are writing about. What is not understood is that primal therapy is the only one that could be economical justifiable!

    your Frank

  2. I would like to do the training!.... Am not sure whether to do that first or start a degree to enable me to practice as a therapist. I'm very inspired by Franks story. If he can get a degree and do training , so can I !

  3. An email comment:
    Dear Art,

    In your latest blog posting, "The Polyanna Effect..." in this sentence..."Yes, yes I will vote for more and more arms so I can feel safe" you should have put arms in quotes ("arms" to hold and protect you --ahem).

    I've been re-reading all the Primal Newsletters I kept from 1979 to 2000 (also have some of the even earlier newsletter "books". Most everything written still seems relevant. I wonder what happened with a lot of the "patients" that wrote the articles back then? An update --so many years later-- would be interesting. I guess Nick Barton moved on to other things. Or not??

    I was astounded that the New York Times responds to you with such wording. Boy, someone must be pretty scared of their own "feelings". You said a long time ago, that a Feeling person shouldn't/can't begin a dialog with a "sick system". Obviously, PT should be practiced out in the larger world. But if the "world" suddenly beat a path to your door (for therapy) would you have the Therapists to cover the demand?? Of course, more people should really know what's going on, primal-wise, but then you may be confronted with an army of "pain-defenders".

    I'm sure you know --and have said, in so many words-- that you can't change the (neurotic) world, so probably should content yourself with waitng for the world (or some portion of it) to Catch Up...if it ever truly does. And if Trump becomes president, there may not be too much of the world Left, ultimately --to catch up. When do we see your blog on the Trump phenomena?? Based on the book, "Generations, The History of America's Future..." written in 1991 --No Surprises. History does indeed repeat itself (Neurotic history, that is).

    Take care. Always the best.

    1. Hi,

      -"Yes, yes I will vote for more and more arms so I can feel safe" -.

      There are many who believe bearing arms is the only way anyone can be trusted. I found this out tonight on social media. Basically this lot believe you can't be trusted if you don't bear arms. They believe the only way to deal with tyranny is through bloody insurrection and if you're not for it then you must be colluding with the tyrants. You cannot reason with them and they aren't exactly stupid either. This is scary stuff.

      Paul G.

    2. Hi Paul. I know what you mean by scary stuff. I was watching the violence on an Independence Lens PBS program where our U.S. swat teams break into peoples' houses in the middle of night for growing marijuana or just to serve a warrant. The people don't know who is breaking in and try to defend themselves. It can end in bloodshed. Talk about 'overkill'. We have become over-militaristic, using force when less invasive measures would do. I wonder why they don't just stake out the place and wait until the suspect goes to the store and arrest him then. Why all the terrorism. The authorities were thinking with half a brain, or disconnected one. Still playing 'cops and robbers.'

    3. Sheri,

      as if on queue:

      -"Saudi Arabia has introduced a series of new laws which define atheists as terrorists, according to a report from Human Rights Watch"-. . .

      It's almost 'Beyond Belief'. . .

      Paul G.

  4. "Be who I am must be the easiest thing to be" if no one has scared me... scared to be the one I was suppose to be long time ago!?

    It seems so easy... simply by avoiding thoughts about other things when I walk into the room... and thereby I pull up feelings of loneliness... it is like a red thread I can follow only I know how to relax... somehow I learned what is to come.
    Someone I trust that does not bother me... that I can talk to if needed... talk about what I am in my feelings... someone I simply trust for what my therapy is concerned is of a good help!

    All this is may not so easy... but when I'm there so it seems like that's all I been waited for!


  5. Eight years of “Pollyanna therapy” which changed the world!

    Sometimes we only respond to effects which reflect ourselves and our underlying needs and feelings. We often only have a preoccupation with recognizing what is wrong. It is in our nature to do it. We are so focused on a particular tree species that we do not appreciate the beauty of a forest.

    When I lived in the US in 1978 and 79, the country went through a severe crisis, financially and emotionally, in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. The economy went bad, the dollar was knocked down (which, however, was to my advantage), the general confidence was low and an unusually human and sympathetic president, Jimmy Carter, was unable to lift the mood significantly.

    Then you could talk about a need for a Pollyanna Effect in the United States. Hollywood delivered in this state an option. From California came a governor, former b-actor, and president of the Screen Actors Guild, the labor union for actors. A seasoned veteran who should actually have been retired. We were many who were terrified when this anti-communist, former democrat, with his views on weapon, morning prayers and economic laissez-faire attitude took over power.

    However, during his eight years in power, he succeeded with his Pollyanna Effect, largely reversing the confidence and the economy in the United States. "In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem.” With charm, straight language (calling the Soviet Union an evil empire), economic sanctions, he participated in the highest degree to tear down the Berlin Wall and dissolve the Soviet Union. Without a single shot was exchanged !!!!! Talented Russians, including politicians, have afterwards confessed, not without praise and thanks, the effort Reagans Hollyanna-propelled sanctions achieved.

    In a neurotic world, there is so much to criticize and improve, butthere are, after all, also occasions to celebrate someone (such as a Picasso) when this person with his painpropelled images lift us into a different world or out of a depressed state. My own obsession / positive dream that one day find an explanation for my epilepsy mystery became in this way, with a kind of Hollyanna Effect, reality.

    Jan Johnsson

  6. I read this, and found it to be informative. Beliefs, to believe in mental wellness is great ! The e-mail comment about what Art had said a long time ago, "that a Feeling person shouldn't/can't begin a dialog with a "sick system". How frustratingly true; almost like one is up against a "brick wall". Very sad if one doesn't have the strength, and if they don't then they must resort to the act of ignoring or the act of pretending to ignore; in either event...not good. Still we have to "carry on" the best way one knows how.

  7. Thinking positive has become a trend lately. Not bad, up to a certain degree, but it's a defence for upcoming feelings, so as a trend it will definitely fail, when deep feelings arise, when feet are paralysed and hands are shaking!

    But there is something more inportant I would like to share:
    As a former primal patient, I made a mistake. A mistake, which I have the impression, that many other patients made. We were focusing most of our time on primal therapy. Back in 2002, we gathered in a cafe (was it Abbot's Habit, Art?) and the only thing we discussed was the therapy.

    This is the other side of the same coin. The counter-Polyanna effect. Focusing on the bad. We degraded primal therapy to a cult. To a new defence.
    Example: in two days I have session; and that was something to focus on. And, in the meanwhile, we were losing those two days. We were keeping our mind on what will happen, how deep it would go etc. And of course, it never happened as planned. Hence the abreactions.

    I believe that our natural state is not to be optimistics or pessimistics. Our natural state is just to BE. And by "natural", I mean it happens automatically. Not thinking about it, not wanting it. Just as we were born. No yoga to be focused on the present. No meditation to repress a feeling. Yoga and meditation may be magnificent for someone's liking, but are lame for defence against feelings.

    But then you will tell me,...I cannot stop thinking. Either when I walk, when I wash the dishes, mind is kept busy BY ITSELF. And the worst part is that it pokes all the negative things that have happened to me.
    Then my answer would be, that since you don't have peace of mind yet, then yes...go for the polyanna effect. If you cannot help but think, then spend SOME of that energy on positive thoughts. Because, in order for the primal therapy to do its best, our "soul" has to be fresh and relaxed.

    There definitely has to be a balance...

    1. Hi Yannis, Here is my story that I think balances your story.
      I did therapy between 2004 and 2009. The coffee shop visits for me were a mostly pleasant time talking to other people undergoing the same process. It was good knowing I was not suffering alone. I also learnt not to pre-empt what I might feel in the next session, as sometimes I would walk in the door with a suspected feeling and ten minutes latter in therapy the feeling had gone somewhere else.
      I learnt to let the therapist be my guide.
      Also I now deal with negative thinking by going to my primal room and getting to the underlying feeling. Then my negative thinking on that particular subject stops. My negative thinking has reduced over time to a point where it rarely bothers me.

    2. Hi Gil.

      This is the best approach towards therapy. Allowing your good moments to happen and celebrate them. Keeping a balance of overloaded pain, by knowing that you are not alone. Not overdoing it of course, because sometimes being a lone-sufferer could be an excellent triggering.

      Then the other part. Going to the primal room. THIS is the solution for a persistent thought, a bad event or something else. Yes, I am with you. Most of our (negative) thoughts are generated from deep feelings and primaling could erase them for good.

      I just wanted other patients not to repeat the same mistake.

      My life is the core (for myself); all other "situations" just orbit my Life;...situations such as my job, my love life, my therapy, my family etc...

      Be well...

  8. Professionalism oppose his opinion about being a child... and it is a very serious complication in training to psychologists and psychiatrists. Maybe not during the actual training where they try to be open-minded but always fails because it does not include Primal therapy in education. Trained simply do not know what it is to be small and vulnerable... why they can not put their thumb on all the symptoms... now as cause than perceiving reason of why symptoms.

    To understand the psychological dilemmas without diagnosis is to recognize the fetus and the baby to have awareness of their existence!

    If we believe that we will be able to conquer the primal therapy's scientific content based on not recognizing it ... so ... you just imagine the results.

    What if life would not be what you think it is... but what you do not think it is... children in adult bodies!


  9. Hi,

    just the words "be positive" is enough to trip me into feelings of hopelessness. It's like telling an amputee to hop.

    Most if not all the people I know struggling with depression, fatigue etc etc actually know how to practice 'positive thinking' and 'mindfulness' very well, which is why we get to have any social interaction in public at all. My agoraphobia is totally overwhelming, that is, when it is. . . Knowing the source of it really helps, though I am consumed with feelings when I am I know where it comes from.

    It's just another way to shut people up. Why don't the positivists just come clean and when they hear someone moaning say: "shut the fuck up"? That would be more honest. I have one or two friends who say this to me and I know that they know that they can't fix me. Sometimes being told to shut up is almost cathartic, funny even. whereas being told to be more positive makes me feel suicidal. There is nothing more cruel than to deny another's suffering and heap moral judgement onto it as well. . . - "you're SO stuck in the past" -. . .

    Paul G.

    1. By the way Katerina,

      I think I may have been 'induced' too. Just the fact that I have refused to look at my birth records since I got a hunch of it rather proves it (not wanting to 'go' and find out). Art - yep, I just have to get out before I can get going (your case - coffee). . . I either refuse to go until all's ready or I am never ready even when I arrive; other combinations of 'not sure / really very sure GO'! I have really been feeling this recently, particularly when waking /getting up for work (as you said about waking in mornings). This has been compounded by boarding school mornings in the dormitory (think being in the ranks as a child waking up to find I'm in the ranks and not in the arms of mater). What you said about those born cesarean, left feeling 'incomplete' like there's something still to do. Also: 'stop / start'. . . 'shall I / shan't I'. . . This is very common. I think I also got well drugged just after making a start. . . First induced, then stuck, then start, then drugged, then pulled out, then left cold, bruised, aching all over, jaw strained, slightly blue and whimpering on a bright slab, then crying for Mum. . . Fucking roller coaster. . . . .

      Paul G.

  10. Hi Paul,
    I was not induced. My labour was 5 hours and my birth was fairly easy and natural. No anaesthetic. The midwives kept the room dark and quite also.
    I never felt through my birth until recently , just this year, which is unfortunate as I could have felt through it sooner with the right therapy. The reason is that in my early therapy, 23 years ago, my therapist tried to put me into birth feelings straight away. Whilst laying there with the therapist laying over me with a big cushion wedged between his body and mine, I managed to snap myself out of panic and calmly tell him to get off, and that I meant it. He didn't get off at first, so I actually had to repeat myself, saying, "I mean it, it's too much!". Then he got off. It really freaked me out. Basically I was left alone for the rest of the session. I just lay there trying to figure out what had just happened, and feeling releived to be left alone. How outrageous!!! Thank God I know better now from this blog!
    Looking back now I feel so proud of myself for trusting my feeling that day when I was smothered by the therapist, but It makes me sad and angry to think about it now, because I realise how alone I was, and actually traumatised by that event.
    After that session, I thought I new what my birth feelings were going to feel like, but it turned out to be completely different to what I was anticipating. I had assumed after that session, that my birth was very traumatic and terrifying for me, because I didn't know for 20 years that I was terrified by the experience of being forced into birth feelings too soon at the start of therapy. The fear I felt about my birth was mostly a carry over from wrong therapy.
    The fear I needed to feel actually came from my womb life . However the birth process itself was pretty easy. For me it was all the feelings around my birth that were difficult to deal with, and caused me a lot of tension, not the actual birth itself.
    Another thing that frustrated my feeling process was that I misunderstood something my mother told me about my birth years ago, and for years I was afraid of feeling an event that didn't even take place. Again I kept thinking I knew what reliving my birth experience was going to mean and feel like. When I finally felt my birth, I was so releived, because it wasn't how I'd imagined it. It was much easier.
    I've had the experience many times now, of thinking I know what I have to feel, and then being so releived and amazed because the feeling process turned out to be easier once I started to actually feel it. I'm learning to trust my feeling process more and more , and to leave room for the fact that my feeling experience may be, and most likely is going to be different from my ' thinking and about feeling'. There is no need to think about the feeling once it's felt, because then it becomes a knowing. I only really know what the feeling is once I've had the feeling.
    But I still think about my feelings a lot, and try to figure out what I should do about my feelings, rather than actually going and feeling what's there. Problems become smaller and life becomes easier when I give priority to feeling through it.

  11. Looking for the positive, that is the old Coué method. The guy has a statue in a park in my town where he retired. I wish it worked !

    Instead of that, I had to feel fear before I could feel happiness
    I had to feel hopelessness before I could feel hope or joy
    I had to feel breathing with no Air before I could feel I'm Alive

    That's is the hardest way !


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.