Friday, August 19, 2016

On the Difference Between Abreaction and Feeling (Part 9/15)

 The idea is to remain in the feeling zone, the only zone where connection can take place. Outside of the Primal Zone, no integration is possible. This is why it helps for the therapist to have at least a modicum of brain science at his disposal. In some cases, for example, we know that the use of tranquilizers can help get the patient into the zone for a time. This is not in lieu of therapy but as an aid to it.

 Now why is the wrong feeling addressed? Because when a therapist has unresolved feelings of her own she will tend to drive the patient where she needs to go.(2) Or worse, she will avoid feelings of the patient that she is not ready for. As for example, anger. If the therapist is terrified of hostility, she will shut it down in the patient.

 She won’t let the patient go near it, and the feeling will remain unresolved. If the therapist cannot be criticized, she will dodge any blame and try to make any error the patient’s fault instead of hers. This is the most widespread of problems with therapists. Above all, we want to avoid confining the patient to his ideational cortex to the neglect of feeling. In other words, we want to avoid precisely the predominant therapeutic approach in contemporary psychotherapy, which is Cognitive Behavioral. The cognitivists really do believe it’s all in your head, that changing thoughts can change behavior. To me, Ideas signify something “disembodied.” When a therapist lives in the world of ideas there won’t be much feeling there; one reason is that feelings seem secondary to them. Ideas, they agree, are paramount and have value.

 By contrast, a full, feeling experience in the Primal sense means that that we are not confined to the neocortical level where ideas and intellect live. What we are after is to hook up the primitive, lower levels of the brain with higher levels so that there is a proper connection. This means that the historical need/feeling/pain has been fully experienced with all of our being.

 And how do we know when a real feeling has taken place? We can verify it, physiologically. Before and after every session, we systematically measure vital signs of each patient. During a real Primal, we expect to the vital signs move pretty much together – up at the start and back down towards the end of a session. Over months there is a constant normalization of vital signs so that the blood pressure, heart rate and body temp get reset to the normal range after some months of therapy. Over time, there is also a significant drop in cortisol levels and enhanced natural killer cells. (See my book “Primal Healing” for further discussion.) Measurable metabolic changes also include a permanent one-degree lowering of body temperature; since body temperature is a key factor in our longevity and the work of our bodies, it is an important index. In addition, our research found that after one year of our therapy there were systematic changes in brain function toward a more harmonized cerebral system. It all means that we are getting to the pain and undoing repression.

 That is not the case with abreaction. In a feeling without context, which is an abreaction, there is never this kind of organized, coordinated movement of vital functions. Instead, a random discharge of energy from the feeling/pain will produce a sporadic, disorganized movement of vital signs. There is no harmony to the system. Thus, when vital signs do not reflect integration, we can be sure that connection never took place. By these measures, “thinking” that we feel and actually having a real feeling are neurologic worlds apart.

 2 Excuse me for jumping between the masculine and feminine pronouns, using “him and he” interchangeable with “her and she.” I get very tired of trying to balance he and she, so be aware that my heart and mind are in the right place.


  1. "Excuse me for jumping between the masculine and feminine pronouns, using “him and he” interchangeable with “her and she.” I get very tired of trying to balance he and she, so be aware that my heart and mind are in the right place"

    why not just use 'they', or 'the patient'? I have to say I find it one of the very few things about your writing I don't like; it's confusing jumping one to the other all the time.

    1. I have a different view of the he/she balance, Raindog. It is refreshing to me to feel included in the discussion with a she/her pronoun. For so many years all I have read was: 'he this, he that' to describe someone. On the other hand I don't want the males to feel left out, nor that only females have emotional issues, so I think he/him should be included. And I think if 'patient' or 'they' were used it would sound distant and impersonal. I'm for 'affirmative action' and think it helps.

  2. To experience is not to think about the experience!

    The need in our therapy is so important to find because the memories of madness is so catastrophic. Our critical window just swishes past... but can we catch it at the time when it is most important for our need to be discovered then we have gained a lot. Finding our needs is often found in our everyday lives but then we tie it up to someone "if we dare" who has nothing to do with it. If we do not dare... so we react with anxiety. So... anxiety is almost at par with our needs as it is to being threatened to have it... a tricky moment.

    I do not know... but I think Art works a lot with just finding the need and not just helping out in anxiety and depression although that is what we mostly seek help for. It can be a sophisticated order to turn the wheel of anxiety to capture the need for what anxiety is an symtom. I think this is important for us not to get caught up in JUST anxiety.

    This blog is in many ways my mentor... I write what I think and experience... and I see the responses I get. Thanks to you all! Yes... your silence is also an answer?

    Your Frank.

  3. Art

    You've done a lot of good to man kind.

    1. Hello Piotr Urbaskin!

      The inability to perceive science... it to be proven... can not be proven until inability has been seen its day!

      Congratulations to Art:s greatness for what he showed humanity must probably wait for his time as primal therapy seems to be far from being established as being the only way to handle anxiety and depression etc.

      But it does not take away Art:s greatness. He is there... where science tells us about the truth impossible to deny... it if we can manage to see it. A science to be proven as can't not be seen because of its place in our brain. A fucking science to be proven!

      Your Frank

    2. Frank, Well thanks so much for all your kind letters love art

    3. Dear Art!

      My thanks to you!

      Your thanks opened my critical window for a while and my tears flowed for what my need was showed. Scared and uncertain I didn't say anything at all... I felt like a trembling leaf that fell without knowing where to land.

      Your Frank

  4. Art, from Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
    They, their, them, themselves: English lacks a common-gender third person singular pronoun that can be used to refer to indefinite pronouns (as everyone, anyone, someone). Writers and speakers have supplied this lack by using the plural pronouns
    "and every one to rest themselves betake" — Shakespeare.
    "I would have everybody marry if they can do it properly — Jane Austen.
    "it is too hideous for anyone in their senses to buy" — W. H. Auden.
    The plural pronouns have also been put to use as pronouns of indefinite number to refer to singular nouns that stand for many persons,
    "'tis meet that some more audience than a mother, since nature makes them partial, should o'erhear the speech" — Shakespeare.
    "a person can't help their birth — W. M. Thackeray.
    "no man goes to battle to be killed. — But they do get killed" — G. B. Shaw.
    The use of they, their, them, and themselves as pronouns of indefinite gender and indefinite number is well established in speech and writing, even in literary and formal contexts. This gives you the option of using the plural pronouns where you think they sound best, and of using the singular pronouns (as he, she, he or she, and their inflected forms) where you think they sound best.
    This is meant to help. A patient won't usually tell you this kind of thing. They may just assume you have some agenda, whereas in fact you are just trying to neutralize a male bias.

    Methinks you have been speaking French too much! Imagine, a language where every noun (and pronoun) has gender. OMG.

    I just found an excellent article on this issue:
    There I learned that Spanish is just like French and German. Arrrgh!!!
    I thought you said Costa Rica is sane.


    1. Grahame, oyeh for the literati among us. I did say Costa Rica and France are sane countries. You are watching my syntax. art

    2. I totally agree that we need something more in the language to help with these situations. My point remains that when reading several paragraphs covering some patient's experiences or reactions etc., it's mentally jarring to jump between he and she. Several times I have thought you must have changed to discussing someone new.

      I understand the issue about male bias, but I just don't think we should let political correctness get in the way of sense.

      And I don't really care if you switch to using she all the time. Its continuity and clarity I care about.

    3. Grahame... to start somewhere!?

      If I should carry with me all the grammar you talk about... so I'd feel my self lost in the sentences without meaning to its importance! I mean... I would not be able to get out of the sentence for what words meaningless insulates me without its significance... its companion... the limbic systemt... my self... my need. How can I possibly learn it for what it takes?

      Your Frank

    4. Frank, I must use words. I picked up on Art's footnote about switching from he to she because I was aware that there was a way around that in English. It's simple and didn't require that long quote from the Dictionary. Sorry. I can get carried away with words but when feelings are close words lead me in like a whirlpool.

      Other times I get frustrated with words because they can not convey what is important to me, and they can lead me on a wild goose chase, and they can not help me guide someone else to resolving their pain.

      But words are all I have to get the necessary documents and take the necessary steps to get me where I want to be in this broken world. So I try to have fun with it while avoiding the traps that Banks and other businesses lay for me.

      Thanks to Art's therapy and this blog, including your efforts, I have far fewer bouts of giving up and sinking into depression. I have found a good Bank believe it or not and a good telephone service. I can sense when someone is genuinely trying to help me as opposed to trying to please their boss and get paid. There are a few businesses among the big ones here in Brisbane, Australia, that seem to know how to pick good people and how to train them to do the right thing by the customer. I am also getting better at expressing my needs without beating around the bush. This makes a huge difference to how things are coming out for me.

      All this has happened since I moved to Brisbane searching for a better environment and social connections. It is all happening some 30 years after I was at the Primal Institute as they tried as best they knew at that time to work with someone who had been pushed into abreaction of 1st line pain (about 2 weeks of age and younger) with the use of drugs and Reichian style bodywork.

      Now I don't push or reach for feelings. Sometimes I feel like it's all too hard and I lay down and that's when deep feelings can surface. Other times I may be walking or on a bus or ferry and tears will flow and some insights follow.

      I don't mean for anyone to follow me in what I do with words or how I approach therapy or do anything else.

      With that post on grammar, I just started out to say thank you. Funny isn't it?


  5. What it is we are holding up against is catastrophic memories... as are in a electrochemical process in our limbick system... flooded of its kind. A disaster if it flood our neocortex. It can be likened to what happens the people in US which now are affected by floods and forest fires which devastates the possibility of survival if you do not flee!

    We suffer disastrous if we are flooded... where ever in ours brain... and what we are flooded by burning like fire in the smallest gene as becomes sentences on its way in trying to tell us about what is happening. Hopefully we can hold it and let as much in as we possibly can manage... it to not drown in what we were as kids... it when we so eagerly wanted to say something we never said... something that the critical window tells us about today if we could only perceive the mood and the language we spoke at the time. The mood we had is now only in an adult body in attempts to deny it... something we just need to accept!

    What now hurts is to be the child we were when we were exposed to pain... a pain we now suffer from and is so hard to overcome... but so close in all of our nervous and anxiety attacks.


  6. happy birthday arthur, nice to have been born on the same day as yours. your work has been life changing.


    1. Well Thank you Shunyo, I am honored for the same day! art

  7. Dear Art,

    Wishing you a very happy birthday and many more to come.
    Thank you for all the good that you have brought into the world.


    1. Well Jean, it is always so good to hear from you. I wish you a good life too. art

  8. Happy Birthday.
    You made my life better.
    Please keep writing.

    1. I will try as long as I can. Thanks for the encouragement art

    2. What more can anyone hear than “You made my life better.” art

    3. Well, you saved mine, that's for sure. I even bought a t-shirt that says "Art Saves Lives"; says it all for me...

    4. I need a Tshirt like that since I discovered a therapy that a saved my life too. art

  9. Hi Art,

    happy birthday to you. By the way, your books and essays make sense of my suffering and therefore make my suffering bearable. There is nothing worse than pain that has no explanation; a perfect recipe for acting in and abreaction that would be. . .

    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.