Thursday, September 1, 2016

Preamble by A. Gurza of my next book: "The Psychology of Every Day Life"

Here is the preamble of my next book, "The Psychology of Everyday Life", by Agustin Gurza.

 Preamble: A Primal Primer

            When Arthur Janov wrote The Primal Scream almost 50 years ago, he revolutionized the field of psychotherapy with a treatment he boldly called the cure for neurosis. Since then, he has written more than a dozen books and countless articles expanding, refining and enriching his theory. However, the fundamental principles he laid out in the original book remain unchanged. The clinical practice of Primal Therapy has evolved over time. But the basic discovery – about why people get sick and how they can get well – has yielded a set of truths that have proven as immutable as the laws of nature.
        Yet, Primal Therapy is not just a treatment modality for people with private problems. It is a unified worldview, a Weltanschauung, if you will, that helps explain so many of the ills afflicting man and mankind. It is a theoretical framework that helps us understand not only the psychology of the individual but also the dynamics of what was once referred to as our “sick society.” Just as Primal Therapy helps unravel the mysteries of our personal neuroses, it also sheds light on those monstrous forces that frequently shock the public and repeatedly cry out for explanation.
        It is this primal perspective that informs the essays Dr. Janov has written in this collection. Behind every commentary and critique lies this deep understanding of how the human mind works, and how it can be twisted and distorted through physical abuse and emotional deprivation in childhood. For those who have followed Dr. Janov’s work through the years, the primal context for these essays will be taken for granted. You might say that we speak the same primal language.
        To some degree, these essays stand-alone. Readers will find the topics provocative and the language accessible. Dr. Janov observes the world with a wonder and awe that we all can share, in a language that eschews dense academic jargon, which tends to obfuscate rather than clarify. However, a basic understanding of primal principles can surely enhance the reader’s appreciation of this work, since Dr. Janov’s observations arise out of primal thinking.
 With that in mind, this preamble is offered to help explain some of the ideas that form the pillars of Primal Therapy. It’s not intended as a crash course in the theory or therapy. It’s only meant as background for those readers unfamiliar with the basic tenants of the therapy. The only caveat is that the following summary strips the theory down to its most elemental form. For a full understanding, readers should still consult the source.
        Here is Primal Theory, in a nutshell.

 We Are All Creatures of Need

        The first and most fundamental primal principle was stated in the short but powerful opening line of The Primal Scream: “We are all creatures of need.” Truer words were never spoken. Any understanding of mental illness has to start with that premise. All human beings have needs, from the primordial (“feed me”) to the psychological (“praise me”). And when those needs are not met, the human organism goes awry. Why? Because it hurts when needs go unmet. We seem to understand this so clearly when it comes to plant life: flowers need a certain amount of sun and water and a certain type of soil, or they wither and die from the lack of life’s essentials. The same is true for our pets on both a physical and emotional level: we respond instinctively when they crave affection and attention.
        Yet, it seems we are not as attuned to our own human needs, which are so much more layered and complex, like our brains. The consequences of ignoring needs are also complex. We suffer from the deprivation, we struggle to absorb the pain, we find a way internally to suppress it and overcome it and move on, but at a great cost. 
        The price of unmet needs is neurosis.
        The entire theoretical structure of Primal Therapy is built on that basic understanding of human need. Those needs evolve over time, in successive stages. As the brain grows, so do our needs. As infants, our needs are few, but they are critical. We need to be fed, to be touched, to be soothed, to be cuddled, to be kept warm, safe and comfortable. The needs are simple but for a helpless baby they hold a life-and-death urgency. Of course, babies can’t feed themselves or cover themselves when they’re cold. So instinctively they know they will die without food or perish if left alone. That’s why when babies start wailing to signal their needs, their cries sound so alarming. To them, the danger feels imminent because they don’t have the intellectual capacity to reassure themselves that help could be on the way shortly. In fact, they have no way to measure time, except by the satisfaction of their needs. If their needs are promptly met, they feel loved and can continue to grow and flourish. If not, they are plunged into pain that they must now overcome. The crisis posed to the infant organism is commensurate with the urgency of the need. For adults, it is sometimes hard to grasp the intensity of the pain a neglected or traumatized baby can feel. That is why some parents still believe it is harmless to let their babies cry themselves to sleep, inventing a rationale called self-soothing, which is an oxymoron at that age. These are fragile human beings at their most helpless and vulnerable, with brains that are not developed enough to help them understand what is happening, much less resolve it with some sort of mental process that soothes their own fears. This is where feelings of terror, despair and hopelessness begin. This is where the seeds of neurosis are planted.
        In childhood, our needs become more complex. Our brain is growing; we are acquiring language and a sense of self. We still have basic needs for shelter and food, though we can now keep ourselves warm and get milk from the fridge. We now also have a need for approval and encouragement as we learn new skills and try new things. We need to feel comforted when we fail, and appreciated when we succeed. We need our parents to calm our fears and support our first steps toward independence. Most importantly, we need to be given the freedom to express our feelings, be it hurt or anger or fear. When our needs are met at this level, when our feelings are accepted, we feel loved. We feel strong enough to grow and take our first steps out into the world. This is how we acquire self-esteem, something that cannot be taught or acquired later on. If instead, the child faces neglect and disapproval, the pain is compounded and added to the stored pain and need from infancy. By adolescence, the child can already be a full-blown neurotic, in primal terms. We’ve all seen teenagers who are angry with their parents and starved for love and approval from their peers. The psychic/emotional system has already gone haywire, and parents throw up their arms not knowing how to handle their tempestuous teenagers. They ask: Where did we go wrong?
        Our needs continue into adulthood. We have a need to find mature love, to succeed in our work, to have fulfilling friendships, to eat healthy and get enough sleep. If however, we carry the old baggage of unmet needs, we might find it difficult to become a successful, happy adult. As we shall see, we cannot escape the unmet needs of our past.
 Repression and the Three Levels of Consciousness

        The notion of the subconscious is crucial to Primal Therapy. It is not a mysterious subconscious in the Freudian sense, a dark and violent depth that is to be avoided. The primal subconscious is filled with the pain from all that unfulfilled need, all those unfelt feelings from childhood. And this leads to another main pillar of primal theory: repression. We are all familiar with the way the brain represses awareness of traumatic events in adulthood, such as severe car crashes or violent sexual assaults. Victims often say they remember everything up to the moment of the catastrophic event, but not the event itself. Clearly, the mind is capable of blocking awareness of extremely painful experiences to protect the organism. The same is true for traumatic events from childhood. The human brain is capable of burying painful memories, along with all the feelings attached to those memories, as a way of protecting the individual from an unbearable realization. And for vulnerable children exposed to abuse or neglect, that realization represents a threat to the system: “I am not loved.” Repression, then, is a survival mechanism that allows the child to encapsulate and bury the awareness of traumatic experiences when they are too painful to take, at that stage of growth.
        There is much new scientific research that illuminates the neurological way this happens, including methylation. For our purposes, we just need to understand that traumatic memories and feelings are blocked from awareness at the time they take place. Thus, repressed memories are laid down and layered over time, creating levels of consciousness corresponding to each stage of an individual’s development. In Primal Therapy, there are three levels of consciousness, all inter-connected via memories and their feelings.
        The first level of consciousness we call the first line. It is the earliest level corresponding to the pre-verbal experiences of infancy, including birth.
        The second level, or second line, encompasses the experiences of childhood that include all the emotional responses arising from the evolving interaction with our parents.
        The third level of consciousness, the third line, represents our current experience as adults, which includes our relationships with our loved ones, our endeavors at work, etc. This is the level of our awareness in the present that, barring one of those catastrophic events, is not unconscious. The normal neurotic is generally aware of feelings and reactions on this level, though they may not understand why they feel a certain way in given situations. In extreme cases, however, even the awareness of feeling may be blocked in the third line, although the subconscious levels are still driving behavior in the present. This is the case with psychopathic killers who feel nothing while committing horrible deeds, which is why witnesses often describe mass murderers as acting calmly with blank looks, or even a smile. The lower level rage that drives these murderous impulses is so buried from consciousness that some killers later confess they don’t know why they did it.
        There is an important corollary to the theory of three levels of conscious, and that is the notion of resonance. This is the idea that similar feelings are connected to each other across the levels of consciousness, from the present to the past and back to the present. Resonance is crucial in clinical settings, because it provides the vehicle by which patients can follow a feeling from the present and be led back to similar, inter-connected feelings in the past.
        Neurologically speaking, the three levels of consciousness correspond to the structure of our triune brain, which, broadly speaking, evolves in three stages. Thus, first-line feelings are registered in the earliest, most primitive parts of the brain; second line involves the mid-level, feeling centers; and third-line engages the higher and last-developing part of the brain, the neo-cortex. This brief summary does not do the science justice, but suffice it to say that Primal Theory is in sync with the way the brain is built, and the way it evolves and grows.
        For our purposes, it’s important to know that these primal fundamentals – pain, repression and levels of consciousness – help us understand many of the mysteries of human behavior. It all comes clear with one kernel of primal truth: Humans hold repressed memories and feelings from the past that drive our actions, thoughts and emotions in the present, without our even knowing it.

 The Act-out and the Divided Self

        Repressed memories and painful feelings are not simply buried from consciousness and forgotten. They remain as a powerful force within the individual, constantly pushing for resolution. Repression produces a divided self, the conscious versus the unconscious. The split creates a constant state of conflict and tension that can only be resolved by making the self whole, which means bringing the unconscious into full awareness. That, in brief, is the goal of Primal Therapy, to unite the self and make the person whole again by systematically retrieving buried memories and finally experiencing the pain and need that had been kept at bay for so long. The cure lies in the reliving and integration of those traumatic experiences.
        Without that resolution, the force of those old, buried feelings continues to impact a person’s personality and take a toll on their health. While repression might keep a neurotic comfortably unaware of the demons inside, the pressure on the system can eventually lead to cancer, heart disease, and dementia. The body breaks down, so to speak, under the stress of holding so much back all the time.
        In order to work effectively, repression requires defenses. Some defenses are built into the system naturally through bio-chemicals produced by the body itself.  These help create a gating system that keeps the traumatic memories unconscious, allowing people to become functional adults. In some cases, however, the pain is so great that it damages or weakens these natural gates, bringing the pain closer to the surface and thus making the person suffer. These are often the people who come to Primal Therapy, because their pain is breaking through and they desperately need a way to resolve it. Others may turn to drugs or alcohol to soothe the suffering, risking a lifetime of addiction since unresolved pain will always be there, requiring more and more drugs to keep it down.
        Our behavior can also constitute a line of defense. We keep our old feelings away through act-outs that can take many forms: Chasing women, acquiring wealth, keeping busy, seeking more and more diplomas and professional recognition. Drug use is also an act-out, but one which directly quells the system though chemical intervention. Behavioral act-outs work symbolically. We try to satisfy our old needs by creating current symbols for what we were missing in the past. So if a person lacked the warm touch of a mother or loving hugs of a father, he or she may constantly seek human touch through sex. Or if a child was constantly put down and never praised, they may become performers always seeking applause.
        Dr. Janov puts it this way: 
            “We keep busy and doing things to keep from feeling there is nothing I can do. We keep having new projects to give us hope to keep from feeling there is no hope. We keep controlling things to keep from feeling I am helpless. We keep making phone calls to keep from feeling I am all alone.
            Now why would we do that? Because the feeling “I am all alone” isn’t just something from yesterday or today; it is the primal aloneness in the first minutes or weeks of life when mother, who was sick at childbirth, abandoned her baby. It became a life and death matter. It is a devastating aloneness that can be triggered off in the present whenever we are left alone for a time.
            We are acting-out against the pain, so that the act-out is unconscious; we do not know what drives us and we usually don’t even know that we are driven. It is all automatic. We keep from sitting still by much travel all to keep from feeling confined at birth, stuck in the canal, then later stuck in a tense and depressed household which was again “suffocating.” So we drag along our past but never know it is there weighing us down. One reason we know the pain is there is by the act-out, obsessive, continuous behavior that seems irrational. We are acting-out the feeling/pain, trying to get over the feeling but never knowing what it is or how to get rid of it.
            I used to think that it was the act-out that would be the death of us; but I now believe it is the underlying feeling that keeps the system activated and forces the act-out. The daredevil is constantly doing something death-defying. He is facing death and conquering it, a replay of his early life. But the imprint of approaching death is still imprinted and forces him to do it again and again.
            A counselor can insist that you stop this negative behavior but she doesn’t see the force below that drives it. Need forces unrelenting behavior. It is out of control because it is already controlled by unconscious forces, which are stronger than any act of will.
            Check your act-out and you will get a good idea of what your pain is. Now the tough part: feeling it.” 

 Insights and Essays

        In therapy, the final stage of a primal is the moment at which the patient emerges from an old feeling and realizes the impact it has had on his life all along. This stage is called the insight. Finally, the repressed feelings are made conscious, and with that comes an often astonishing new understanding of why we have done, or failed to do, certain things all our lives. The therapist never provides the insight for the patient. The insight arises from reliving the old pains, or rather, experiencing them consciously for the first time. Making the connection to the old feeling in its original context is what brings relief, and healing. Once the old pain is felt, it no longer exerts its subterranean force, and we can stop trying to symbolically satisfy the old need that created the pain in the first place, and kept us crazy all our lives.

        Dr. Janov wrote the essays in this book using this primal insight into how human behavior works. You might say he is using the insights achieved by hundreds of patients to help explain the inexplicable: Why mass killers kill, why successful celebrities commit suicide, why people feel the need to travel all the time, why so many kids suffer from ADD, and why it’s so hard to find true, fulfilling love. Primal theory provides the powerful lens that allows him to probe beneath the surface of this array of befuddling, frustrating, shocking and mystifying human behavior. Like a primal, the analysis is often illuminating.


  1. " basic tenants of the therapy"

    - tenets?

    Otherwise, great and looking forward to this one, as I have all your books :-)


  2. Hi,

    -"We are creatures of need"-. . .

    I'm really starting to get into this way of perceiving. It's a fulfilling way to approach life.

    I know it's a type of 'cognitive training' but have you all heard of Marshal Rosenberg and 'Non Violent Communication'? He talks a lot about need in a very helpful way.

    If I'm correct he died recently and a very informative, compassionate and humorous video of him teaching in a class has appeared in 'Uplift' online:

    -The Basics of Non Violent Communication-

    Marshal Rosenberg.

    Paul G.

  3. A comment by Andrew, (deleted by mistake.... sorry!)
    Here it is:
    "I thought this was extremely well written."

    1. So do I. Flowery, felt, and comprehensive
      I look forward to this, Art. Yet another! Well done! x Jacquie


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.