Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Why Primal Pain Endures

New information again seems to document that pain memory lasts a long time.  (see .  We have known that for fifty years but new research shows us where and how. The fact remains that early injury and its suffering carries on perhaps for a lifetime.  They don’t just carry on; they continuously do damage.  And the cells send information of the damage and its agony to higher levels.  This was a study on persistent pain in mice. They found that damage changes epigenetic marks on some genes of immune cells to mark the spot; they carry on the memory of trauma. The investigators wanted to know why pain becomes chronic; and they are searching out the nerve pathway that carry pain along. The point is that there are neural mechanisms that make pain endure.  We don’t just get over it; it is now part of us.  Certain nerve cells become much more activated.  The problem is that with pain they remain in an hyperactive state.  It is not only in our minds but everywhere inside of us.  And the adaptive damaged cells keep in replicating themselves.

Notice, I did not say, maladaptive cells.  Because maladaptive is the way damaged cells adapt. To carry the idea forward, we need to get to those pained cells and experience them fully so that we can now adapt normally.  They point out that neurons acquire epigenetic footprints that affect key proteins. Those pains seem to insist that we must face the pain and react fully.  Otherwise, after a fully reliving why do cells return to their normal state?  It is a matter of unfinished business; we cannot neglect our biology and hope to be normal.

The problem is with most enduring pain we do not know where to look or how deep to go.  So instead of doing what we should, feel it fully, we push it back and hide it until it comes out in a different form: cancer?  Same pain, different expression.  Same epigene, different phenotype.  It is not always helpful to look for different causes for different afflictions; they may be the same.

I have noted that Primal memories are not inert.  They do not lie here waiting to be discovered.  They agitate and gnaw away.  Recently on TED TALK there is a report on nanoparticles “trained” to enter the body, search out developing cancer cells  and kill them, all in microscopic space.  These particles know what their job is and they don’t forget (see  Our own immune cells clearly have the same kind of memory; they try to do their job but imprinted pain overwhelms them and prevents them from discharging their “daily rounds.”  How do I know?  When we reduce the pain in the system through one year of Primal Therapy the natural killer cells increase; the same kind of cell as those nanoparticles I wrote about.  Deep pain prevents us from being normal and acting normal and having our biology behave normally.


  1. Hello Art!

    Sophisticated cognitive activity is strong?

    Can you write something about strong versus weak cognitive activity?
    This morning when I woke up... I saw a shadow that walked over the wall... a shadow that was reflected from someone who walked past my window. I suddenly felt a warmth... that someone was there and I knew it like a red thread through my life. I recognize it from my childhood where I projected my need on similar events. I could hear some sound from someone that was moving in the next room and I felt that someone was there which made me feel a warmth and a tranquility could appear. It seems like a sophisticated cognitive activity away from the catastrophic loneliness. I experienced something that I still can feel when a shadow on the wall reminds on the peace that never existed.


  2. I tend to think that I am in a hurry with my therapy... it in a frustration... but now I know why... my life draining out of my hands.


  3. Art

    In this Word, when people still are slaves, working slaves for minimal wage, you become for me voice of truth. I am disconnected for most of time, but thanks to this blog and You I know that it is not wrong to cry and it is not wrong to tell what was wrong. I will try to pass this to my son. I am telling him “son please remember if you grow up read primal scream”. There are so many things lost. My defences against logic.
    Please keep writing this blog

  4. Why it is complicated to be close friends... and to develop what primalterain have to give!

    Being friends is to protect each other's weaknesses instead of being "provocative" in the sense of what we think about different things. When it comes to emotions that drive us without awareness of it and hate is showing itself then it is difficult to back off in the sense to understand what the other part is talking about. This is a very important element to be clear about before starting a process of primal therapy... and therefor an greater need of going to the center for what knowledge is needed.

    I can imagine that this is one of the reasons that the primal therapy is not spread in the sense as it might otherwise have done... conflicts stop the process! Hate is something elemental to be neurotic and must have its place of where it belongs before we can help each others... understanding it is elementary in the process of primla therapy.


  5. Hi,

    as a consequence of having my own place for 12months,at last after 5 years homeless / of no fixed abode / sofa surfing etc, I have finally begun ridding myself of the things I don't need. Gradually I am coming around to learning the skills to do CAD instead of pen & ink, it was fear of computers, still got it, diminishing as I organise my life again. Eventually I'll stop carpentry on the tools when I really master the design & procurement. It's taking a while and it's challenging me to 'let go' of certain things and assumptions.

    I was trained as an artist at an early age. I then noticed I had little to say with the skills. I eventually gravitated to woodwork but after 30 years of that I am thinking about art again; do I have anything to say this time around?
    Rummaging through the local charity shop I found a short paperback children's adventure: "Outcast" By Rosemary Sutcliff; she was well respected back in the 1960's, won prizes and all. In it there's a beautiful passage where our broken & almost suicidal hero is recounting to his recently adoptive father. After so long as a slave in a Roman Galley, pulling the oars, he could no longer use the natural senses in his hands to detect the broken bones in the dog he had recently rescued.
    This is how I feel about art now. My hands need time to get the 'feeling' back, gripping onto hand tools for 30years. I certainly have things I want to say but Rosemary Sutcliffs book say it so much better than I. So much so, I am also reticent to finish the children's book I started writing. My words also need to 'unharden' from the 'road traveled' so far. . .

    I have had some very releasing insights about my association with the 'art community' in the city I live in. I have been far too proud to associate with people who can afford to 'patronise' the arts and thus myself have hardly ever sold art (or associated with those who have). Some have said I'm a failed artist; which is only as true as I measure myself by the criteria of 'self esteem'. . . Who's criteria is that?

    I'll have you all know I am a very good failed artist actually.

    That need and desire to be appreciated and wanted, to be seen and respected, to be heard. . . The way art & beliefs combine to express something. . . It's very complex. There's all kinds of art; we seem to have become obsessed with 'conceptual art' without perhaps knowing we are actors in someone else's nearly every day. I saw a wonderful little u tube video by a nice psychologist on the subject of 'projective identification and splitting'. I realised I am gradually breaking free but as in Pilgrims Progress (another gem) I have now seen the need to start at the Picket Gate. You don't need to believe in God to benefit from Bunyans words. There are no short cuts; one cannot merely join the path by jumping over the wall further along the trail. . . I nearly deceived myself I could build a 'staircase to heaven' (and to the Primal Center), but my hands hurt too much from the effort.

    I'm repeating myself.

    Thanks to Art and all the wonderful contributors who's words have more art in them than most of the stuff that panders to the rich 'patrons'. . . This art is for us. Thanks, I am truly inspired.

    Paul G.

  6. Dear Frank, I can relate .....the feeling that ' time is running out!' and ' I want more time', has been a familiar feeling theme throughout my life. I've worked with that feeling a lot in myself, however it still crops up.Stress literally robs us of time and life.
    One of the reasons for my difficulty with spelling has just occurred. I didn't feel there was time to stop and get it right .
    Feelings are pervasive. For example the belief/ feeling, 'there is not enough time', can become ' there is not enough time to feel my feelings' , It's all part of the same cluster of feelings or feeling theme.
    Frank , thanks for helping me to identify a feeling and a need.

    1. Hello Katherinanina!

      It is also of great help for me to listen to your honesty about your suffering!



  7. I would like to say that physical pain puts me in touch with my primal self, it just seems to open me up with the gates flung open. But the gates are firmly shut whenever I get close to any kind of emotional truth.

    1. Hi R,

      -'physical pain puts me in touch with my primal self'-.

      Me too. Then you say :-"It just seems to open me up with the gates flung open"-.

      Yep, and my pain threshold has dropped a lot. I wonder if as we get closer to 1st line birth traumas (which can be very physically painful), if we are to prepare for reliving those sensations, we need to be sure we have actually visited all the emotional ones (2nd line) first. As you imply, getting close to the emotional truth also requires we be emotionally equipped to handle the earlier physical ones. That takes time and I have heard that quite a few Primal patients make two visits to the Center. Is this a natural consequence of needing to work thoroughly in the 3rd & 2nd lines first?

      It kind of follows that once triggered, the process of gaining access will naturally affiliate in three different ways. Thus physical pain experienced now from external shocks resonates more directly to 1st line imprints; emotional shocks to 2nd line and 3rd line ideological/moral/social shocks experienced now resonate down to later childhood & adolescence.

      I don't know, but it feels like it to me.

      It could be that one's system begins naturally to unravel the 'abreactive' knots, where one brain is wrongly doing the work of another. If this process can be started through learning and practicing the dialectic, it aught to be useful prior to attending the Primal Center. Obviously 'rote learning' all these fine big words will confront genuine Primal therapists with a spectacle nobody really wants, but that's not what I've got in mind.

      Paul G.

    2. Paul, Watch out for doing all this on your own. you need specialized help to get into the primal process. Not something to be taken lightly. art

    3. I know (that I don't know); thanks for the reminder.

      Reading Alice Millers 'Breaking Down The Wall of Silence' again.

      I know you and she met in Paris and she went off to a charlatan. I am all too aware of what I shouldn't do.

      This book helps me 'diffuse' the struggle inside me to 'out there'. So I can vacillate with yet more devious (journalistic) act outs as a way to 'bury it' until I can get the support I need (as Katerina said).

      On the good side, now this aging dog has a home to go to, I am actually experiencing some stability in my life for the first time in 7 years. Isn't it amazing how our perception shrinks to the size of the prison we find ourselves in? Only later realising how much bigger the world is.

      I haven't dared investigate the US Visa situation until I clear a load of legal stuff here in UK. Blah.

      If I had a house to sell I would but frankly having a bedsit from the local authority is quite enough for now.

      Best wishes.

      Paul G.


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.