Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Suicide is Painless Repression, Despair and the Relief of Reliving Near-Death Feelings (2/5)

There is only one way to stop the suffering, and that is to revisit the imprint and relive the pain. Until then, we cannot know the real lack and what it is. That is why the system insists on reliving later in life. Our own system is pushing for real integration and liberation, because it seeks to become whole again. That imprint has only one goal in life; to be relived exactly as it was laid down. Its message is a constant warning of unfinished business. The pain from very early on has to be felt and dealt with in all its agony. The imprint knows no mercy. It wants conscious awareness somewhere inside even while the top cortical level does what it can to imprison it. Conscious awareness means delving into deep feeling plus ultimate awareness of what it is. The imprint will never leave until it is lived again, fully, in its original context. Enough rearranging of the chairs on the Titanic. We must join feelings with their thoughts and make ourselves whole. Fame won’t do that; I have treated enough stars to know that, and my patients also know it. There is no substitute for extirpating the imprint. None. Avoiding the imprint and we are leaving misery in place. Reliving it finally stops the terrible drive to feel like a success. That is different from being authentically successful, which is the drive to do things right. A little more relaxing.

To be loved early on, that is what sets the stage for your life. It means fulfilling basic needs as they evolve; it makes us feel confident and productive, but not driven. It offers daring and enthusiasm and a joie de vivre. It allows us to try but never in desperation. Symbolic love – the kind we get from fame and celebrity – has to be repeated over and over exactly because it cannot fulfill. Why not? Precisely because it is symbolic, a substitute for the true love we never got from our parents. When there is a basic lack of fulfillment early in life, especially during gestation, birth and infancy, an imprint is created that stamps in that deprivation, through the partially open sensory window. That imprint is embedded deep in the brain and stays there, almost inaccessible. We are aware only of a gnawing emptiness, feeling unfulfilled. Empty like a shell, as one patient put it. And that need, now unanchored from its source, drags us into the race for symbolic fulfillment. But it’s a race that never ends because it does nothing to alter the motor that’s driving it, which is the painful, buried imprint of getting no love when it really mattered. Once the pain is embedded and out of reach, we will seek out substitutes, so as to stop feeling empty. The agony from that deep, deep pain becomes a primordial part of us. It now confuses us, distracts us, and above all, stops our concentration. Oh yes; it depresses us because we live with an enemy in the house that we cannot escape. It lives with us and in us; it claws for its liberation; it wants freedom to live the pain, believe it or not. Yet we do what we can to stop it. No wonder most psychotherapy is aimed at repression and rationales, understanding but never deep feeling. They get a bit of relief, which the patient settles for; but no cure. So what does the successful person feel? Very little: Down, unhappy and unfulfilled. He has no other choice because those feelings will not leave even for mercy’s sake.

Success is not a feeling; being loved is. Fame is other people’s idea of our achievements; it is in a way their feeling…admiration, humbling, important, etc. And why does even the most accomplished person never feel satisfied nor fulfilled? Because all of his fulfillment and all of his admiration is symbolic; it is not the love he needed early on. It covers it over the lack of love, sits on top of the real need. The feeling window is now closed, and leaves an emotional vacuum in its place. It is the imprinted pain that cannot be erased no matter what kind of success is there. And it drives him for more and more – more money, more applause, more awards.

Finally at the top of his fame he feels still unfulfilled and a failure; there is nothing more to gain, nothing more to try for. He looks at all his billboards and feels empty. What does it mean? “I don’t know what else to do to feel good, to feel successful.” It seems that life is empty. There is no point; suicidal thoughts thrust their way in, as he feels the real deep feeling of hopelessness and helplessness that he has been escaping from in his work. The pain that drove it all is still alive and gnawing inside. It says, sotto voce, you are not loved and that is all that matters. Something is missing and you have no idea what that is. You have failed at what matters most; to be adored, admired, encouraged, held and caressed. That is the constant malaise that speaks of something missing. “All your drive was to try to feel loved, and you believe you are, but not by the people who really matter, and not at the time when love was a life-or-death affair.
I treated one film director who became seriously depressed when he was no longer on stage. He felt useless, unneeded and unwanted; he started to feel his old feelings once again, only before therapy he drugged his hopelessness and now in therapy he is feeling it for what is really is. He began to feel the childhood part of the pain with parents who did not want him around; he was convinced there was something seriously wrong with him. This lay on top of the earlier pains of a sense of dying, of suffocating and losing consciousness. But not being needed on set began the whole process all over again. The first part was the feeling of “I will die if I am not loved,” and then much later, “I am dying and there is nothing I can do to escape.” This was the ultimate helplessness and hopelessness, the key elements of depression. Resonance always involves the chain of pain; the neuronal linkage from one set of neural processes to another. It is why something innocuous can set off catastrophic feelings.


  1. Hello everyone.

    Since we are talking about suicide, my personal experience fits really well.

    When I was at the beginning of primal therapy, widely opened and with very weak defences, I felt the need to kill myself. To end pain? To attract attention? I don't quite remember. But I do remember that I wanted to end my life.
    So, I took a knife, went to a bathroom and, while feeling terrible, I started saying goodbye to everything that I had lived...my family, the sun etc...etc. Tears were flowing like a torrent, while I was feeling them so genuinely.

    Here comes the most amazing part! When the blade touched my flesh, the feeling stopped. The threat of my life gave priority to my maintaining my existence over any current feeling.
    In other words: wanting to kill myself was the ritual, perhaps my last defence, for the real feeling to be revealed. All those goodbyes and that need for attention at the last moment of my life, pushed my body to the REAL FEELING. And as soon as my life was in REAL danger, even that HUGE feeling stopped. Because, I HAD TO LIVE! My suicide attempt was a symbolic attempt to die, but in reality to be genuinely alive.

    Nobody would choose to die, even in the worst emotional situation; and I know that. If I had used different method, like jumping from a building, or taking extreme doses of drugs, I would have never been able to describe such an event.

    Now pay attention! Under any circumstances, do I presume that one should try to bring himself to the brink of death. What happened to me, happened. I didn't know it, I didn't pretend it and that is why, some time later I was able to resume my feeling.
    My story was to PINPOINT that life matters and although a suicide attempt (for some people) seems like a salvation, the REAL NEED IS TO LIVE AND NOT TO DIE. I know that there may be hurt souls out there and could misunderstand my words.
    So, I am saying it again: I didn't act at that time. I thought I wanted to die, only to discover that I wanted to LIVE. Nobody should bring himself near death on purpose, motivated by my story, only to delve into a feeling. My story was an hymn and proof to life, not death!

    One more thing, this time concerning the celebrities.
    I was told and frequently experienced, that some feelings need a dose of "good", in order to come up. That "good" maybe a new relationship, a new job, a newborn, a random act of kindness from a stranger etc.
    When this "good" touches the right strings inside us, then the road is ready for the feeling.
    Thus, a celebrityis full of those "goods". Attention, money, lovers. All the latters bring exactly the perfect emotional state for them to FEEL. But if they fail to recognize their feelings, as the article mentioned, they will resort to countless unhealthy acts or habits.

    1. Yannis,

      I've only got to get a smile from someone at the right time and I turn to jelly.

      I am currently experiencing a huge amount of resistance around my accommodation getting sorted out by the landlord. I have discovered that my basement bedsit has a serious funcgal spore problem. "Sick Building Syndrome". I've had a chest infection and asthma for 5 weeks now and it's really getting me down. It's preventing me form establishing myself. Most of all I can't set up the little workshop I had planned to make small wooden crafts. That is a life saver for me, it gives me a sense of purpose and satisfaction. So I'm stuck. Now where and when have I felt that before?

      So any feedback from anyone is like a sip of water to a refugee in the desert. I don't know how much more of this 'resonance down' I need. You can only wring so much water out a towel before it tears under the strain. How ironic that tears and tears are the same spelling.

      Paul G.

  2. To all of you who are listening to want to hear more than what you feel!

    At one point... an information can be right... but at an other completely wrong! That's what primal therapy is all about and do we not know what and when then we know nothing. But being nice to someone who is suffering is priceless... but do not say anything... just be present!


    1. Frank,

      but writing emails is helpful. You got my email address!

      Paul G.

  3. Hi all,

    this may seem off topic but it isn't. It's following on from my previous post about how so much 'out there' isn't worth bothering with.
    I woke up this morning thinking "you can change the past". This arose out of my frustration that so many people seem so forgetful of the past and so convinced that living in the 'now' is where we should be. Because out of this comes the potential delusions of so called 'free will'. It sounds complicated but it's not. My deep alienation and loneliness has caused me to give up a lot of false aspirations, expectations and loyalties 'out there' and consequently, despite all my neurosis, pain and suffering, my present and my future is certainly changing. It doesn't look like it at the moment, I hardly go out, I am tired, confused & depressed etc etc, it looks like I'm still 'stuck'; well, I suppose I am. I could also berate myself for losing the 'will' to achieve what I set out to do eh? But was that 'force' in me actually ever genuine will? Was I ever 'free' to will those things I believed I wanted or needed? It doesn't seem so. Why? because my past, my imprints keep me repeating certain 'gestalts'. AS they do eh? I look around me and I see little difference with others, even if they have strong gates and are allegedly NOT stuck in the past. Their behaviours are just as predictable. Actually what they seem to do is 'obfuscate' in some way or other and 'muddle' through with reinventions of themselves and rewriting of their histories. Such are the advantages of 'Strong Gates'. No wonder modern politicians get away with what they do. This to me seems characteristic of those who have strong gates and little ability to reflect on themselves.

    I digress. I realised that with Primal Therapy and even with Primal Theory and a genuine consideration of one's own life in the light of the theory that when we say 'imprint' we are actually talking about a historic event then, partially recorded now and so that event is as 'incomplete' now through the way it is lodged in our genes by methylation, as is a letter lodged in a pigeon hole, yet to be delivered. Repressed trauma in methylated genes are 'undelivered letters'.
    In other words, even though we can accept we have been traumatised by specific historical events, the way those past events have actually affected us is not yet a complete action. WE don't really know what they are, they are 'incomplete' in us. The methylation has it stored: "IN LIMBO".

    This isn't a matter of perception or philosophy either, the biochemical facts stack up like 'undelivered letters'. Infact the proof of my idea, my 'insight' that you can change the past is in the simple Primal fact that when you actually feel these events they frequently are NOT even remotely like what you BELIEVED them to be (they may be even more scary for example)! It is as if the past events are INCOMPLETE until RELIVED.

    And this is what Art means when he says (eloquently) that when you have finally re connected with the feeling part of the past then you can put it to bed. You can leave it there, in the past.

    And I am saying this is what 'changing the past' really is and that my friends is what REAL FREE WILL is. It is the ability to establish access with those as yet 'undelivered letters', to open them, feel their content and send them on to their final destination into one's memory. That is the only true free will inmho. All else is delusion and this simple message is 'revolution'.

    Maybe I am glorifying Primal as a concept but I don't think so.

    We can change the incomplete past and the way it affects us through genuine access and reliving.

    Paul G.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Paul,

      I like your writings, and I agree with your opinions.

      Glorifying is not what you do, but since we are dealing with truly groundbreaking concepts, unknown to all our acquaintances, it sometimes feels as if we are aliens, with a language of our own, a knowledge of our own, a world of our own, a dimension of our own. And, glorious or not, we are in a sense aliens.



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.