Friday, January 27, 2017

My Life: The Early Primal Years

I finished university and transferred to USC Graduate school. I was their top student according to my professors, but at the one-year mark I was asked to leave. Why? I have my own ideas. It was USC, after all. They told me I could not work and go to school. I had 2 kids, so I had to work and I was already licensed as a social worker. I was told by a professor years later that the head of the department did not want me. She had never met me, but she knew my name. That seemed to be enough.  

I left to go to Graduate school at a beautiful place called Claremont Graduate School. I got my Doctor’s degree there and, to my surprise, was elected to the Academic Hall of Fame. This from a guy who thought himself a failure. It was a tough school, with high academic standards. For the Ph.D, we had to pass tests in two other languages. I spent a summer learning scientific French, which I forgot the day I passed the test. I had several pals there, including a woman called Belle who in mid-term died of cancer.

I invited my parents to graduation in a very English hall with British trappings, very elegant. I invited them to give them one more chance to be happy for me. They never said a word, never looked happy and on the way there, my mother said that she knew more than I would ever know. We all forgot she was psychotic and delusional. I almost never saw them again after that day. They never cared. And I learned to get on with my life. 

But getting on with my life has a very different meaning to me now. I know the deed is done, the imprint of the hurt is engraved deep in the brain and I will not shake it for a long time. Except with Primal which burrows down in my brain, searches out the hurt and, believe it or not, forces me to feel it again, this time with feeling.  The pain was so enormous that I could only experience pieces of it at a time. I know that it will stay embedded until it is felt and done with; no escape.  No baby can feel that. He needs a bit of maturity before he can.  But biologic law dictates that “no child left behind.” We cannot leave behind aspects of the pain unfelt. It will stay and cause trouble. And for the pain living in the shark brain, the trouble can be fatal. I have relived it, and I can assure that it is beyond belief. However,  it is now "feelable" and it becomes a feeling, not just of pain but of great relief.  Otherwise our therapy could not work. I sometimes call it “a pain that does not hurt.” It becomes a memory shorn of pain and simply takes its place in our memory bank. So in a strange dialectic we have a feeling that when not felt becomes pain; and a pain that once felt becomes a feeling. What does that mean? It means that feelings are essential to development and good health.  They are in the essence of things and cannot be ignored. It has to hurt to make us aware of unfinished business. It is also what all those symptoms and afflictions later on mean. Reminders of feelings foretold.  We watch closely and do not allow the experience before its time. Early patients who are disturbed get into this monumental pain right away; here we see the precise source of their mental disturbance. Deep pain unresolved. It is right on top because compounded pain from later on has feebled the gating system and faltered in its job to repress pain. These patients need pain pills for some months to give a helping shoulder to the gates.

Back to my life.

I graduated in 1951 from social work school and then discovered it was not at all what I wanted, but I had been chosen for a special internship in psychology for an additional year of graduate school. I began treating patients. My chiefs were  friends of or students of Freud, nearly all from Vienna with all that Viennese charm. It was a great experience. But it was strict Psychoanalysis straight from Vienna. We treated many stars of film because these chiefs were well connected with Hollywood. When Hedy Lamar came in, it was some surprise.

I then entered psychology graduate school. And did several years at Claremont before getting my doctorate. Every day I drove from West Los Angeles to Claremont, about a hundred miles, coming back at night to take care of my children. Then I found out that it was also not what I wanted. So what on earth did I want? Something that dealt with people and their anguish, not understanding how to do a two tailed statistical measurement. 

That kind of psychology did not exist, so I invented it but it was far from an invention. It was a true discovery that was destined to change the world of psychotherapy and the treatment of mental illness. Concocted theories are intellectual,  someone’s great idea, and often useless.  Why?  They neglect feelings in order to build some intellectual precipice. It was painstaking work, observing patients and then trying to figure it out, being careful not to contradict neurologic science. 

Here is what took place.

I was living and working in Palm Springs.  I was conducting a regular group therapy; all of us on chairs, talking. One patient, Denny, had just returned from New York, and was recounting the Theater of the Absurd he saw: a guy was dressed in diapers  and sucking on a baby bottle, yelling out “Mommy!  Mommy!” I asked, “Denny, why not do that?” He answered, “It is not available to me.” So I said, “OK but why not try?”  “I told you, it is not available to me.” I pushed and pushed with no idea of why. He started softly, “Momma, Momma.” I yelled, “Go on!” and his voice got louder and louder, until he suddenly fell off his chair and was screaming it.  He fell on the floor, writhing and seemingly out of control. After an half hour, he came out of what seemed like a coma, scraped the carpet with his finger, and looked quizzically at me as if to say “What on earth happened?” Then he uttered the words that shook me for decades: “I can feel! I can feel.” Neither of us had any idea of what happened.  Or why he could feel. And what did screaming have to do with it? I kept the tape of the session and listened to it for days, trying to understand it.  I then tried it on different patients, all with amazing results. I knew I was onto something, but what? It  took me decades to figure that out. What was I looking for? Who had the answer? It is pretty strange to begin a hegira into the unknown and not know where you are going or what you are looking for.  And more, how to get there? An enigma inside a mystery.  As I learned more, it became even more mysterious. Why all the choking and suffocation? Where did it come from and why? Why couldn’t they scream? Why couldn’t I scream no matter how hard I tried? I began to learn in small bits when screaming develops, and how this lack tells me when the trauma occurred. I developed the theory of the hierarchy of needs. 

Meanwhile, the man who did the Theater of the Absurd came to see me in Los Angeles. We had lunch and had a good time. A good man. He told me all about how he came to do the theater in the first place.  He is now a professor at UCLA.

With the discovery of new research in neurology 50 years later, it all became clearer but it was in my clinical work that it was already clear. And it took all of those 50 years to even come close to perfecting it. But it has evolved now into a very complex theory and therapy that takes years to learn properly.  So what is it all about? It was not the screaming, although I thought it was when I wrote a book that sold millions called The Primal Scream. It changed the life of so many and above all, it changed me completely.  It gave me a whole new perspective on life and the human psyche. How did I learn? From my body. Everything I needed to learn was waiting achingly in my system, just waiting to be liberated. And boy what a treasure lay inside: my entire past life. But I learned that it cannot ever be hurried or else danger lies ahead. And what a danger that can be. It is neurosis doubled, and it is a bitch to undo. With no understanding of the three levels of consciousness, some neophyte therapists allow so much pain to emerge at the same time as to create overload and abreaction. All levels of the brain work in hyperactive fashion surging toward conscious/awareness. It is so powerful that it cannot be integrated and remains an alien, dangerous force, an intruder that needs access, but it cannot be let in with its naked and unadorned  power before its time. We are dominated by evolution and must obey its laws. No shortcuts allowed. 

The time could be months away until the brain says, “OK, I am ready to face it now.” And he does not seek out of the pain actively; he lets it come to him, infiltrating a bit at a time until it becomes part of him. But I am getting ahead of myself. What is it all about? I am glad you asked. What I learned was that pain can be embedded in the system with a force that becomes engraved and endures,  perhaps for a lifetime. I call it Primal Pain, which can be massive, overwhelming and catastrophic. A force we have never imagined exists, and still it is very hard to believe that this kind of power dwells inside our system, wreaking havoc. A pain that can lift a patient off the floor with its strength and can do so day after day, month after month. It is truly ineffable.  We have never seen it in history for one simple reason: patients have never been down in the brain that deep for reasons of survival. Once we see it over and over again in our patients and in our therapists, we begin to understand the possibility of cancer. It is a pain that evolves from inside, not outside. Its meaning is as yet inchoate but it soon becomes clear as it nestles into its berth and transforms into pain; that pain informs us of its meaning and its provenance. Without language, it speaks volumes of the extent of the pain.  It makes clear why we took painkillers. As it slides away, so does the pain. The pain carries with it so much of our history and explains our ailments and compulsions. Without the pain it carries no information.  

This pain radically alters brain waves, vital signs, biochemistry, and dozens of key functions. Blood pressure over 300. Heart rate over 200, and I could quote all this until it becomes unbelievable. Again, we could never imagine or now believe that such force lies inside, agitating the system. I have never seen it before and never heard of these numbers because, for example, I never knew to check the biology of my depressives, but when I did I learned what they were undergoing was tantamount to a body-fail and near death experience. It took me many decades to understand that, and I could only understand it after we treated many, many depressives and checked their vital signs all through their feelings sessions. I had to figure out what near death had to do with depression. And how we could reverse it.  And why were they suicidal. Who could dream that life during gestation was key here? It would take more than a dream; it would take seeing many patients, observing their maladies and putting observations together with theory.

I learned the key to unraveling depression and many other afflictions. It was due to what I came to call The Imprint. That lack of love, an angry look of a parent, leaves  a trace (now called methylation) that stays for a lifetime, doing ineffable damage. And psychotherapy as we know and knew it, never altered one drop of it. Psychotherapy is useless and unscientific and should be abandoned. And what we were taught in college was a myth that best be classified as fairy tales. Harsh? Sour grapes? I have practiced therapy for 60 years and learned what works and what does not. We need a minimum of neurological information in our practice to begin to understand how and why therapy does not work. We must know how the brain works. There is a brain that does not speak, so let’s stop asking it questions, asking it to explain when it does no speak any language. And if we insist on explanations we neglect answers given by that brain. There is another brain that can explain but it is far removed from the feeling brain which holds key answers to our questions. So it explains but cannot understand information from a brain that knows only music. And if that person stutters we can stop it if he will sing his information. This is not a joke. I have done it  with stutterers. It seems like a miracle but it is only a different brain doing the work. It is the brain of feeling. And this is the brain we lean on in Primal. The brain that feels and has insight and sings. Until we get into using that brain instead of the explaining brain, Primal Therapy cannot possibly work. The patient will never know when he is close to a feeling and learn to take the piste to expand its capacity. What we want is to explore his inner depths. That will not happen if we remain on the top brain. It is the feeling brain that we have neglected and ignored. It has to join the circle of its friends and get back to hugging and kissing. Remember Janovian law: we cannot get one brain to do the work of another brain. Each brain has its function and it adheres to that. In that brain and only that brain lies the tears that need release. 

Why have we ignored it? Because we learned early not to cry or be exuberant. We learned that feelings were bad and had to be kept in check. So they atrophied from disuse. I learned when I was eighteen about a famous lady who wore strange hats. When asked why she wore such strange hats she did not explain. She said “Because I like them.” I never know that was enough. In my world, we needed excuses for everything. You could just like something: what a revelation. And that non-emotional world carried on to therapy where feelings were an anathema. A world upside down.  Implied in all this? Feelings do not count. 

I left L.A. Children’s Hospital and went into private practice. I had discovered Primal in mid 1967.  My first book came out in 1970. Very soon I got a call. I never knew that my publisher had sent The Primal Scream to John and Yoko Lennon for review. They not only read it but Yoko called to say that John needed help. I told her he needed to come to Los Angeles for therapy. He could not get out of bed. I told her I could not leave one hundred patients and go to England. And I hung up. My kids, who were preteens at the time, asked who called. I told them it was Yoko. “What did she want?” I said she wanted me to come to England and I refused. At this point I heard screams of “Are You Crazy?” My son said, “You call her back and tell her that you will come but only if you can bring your kids.” In those days my kids were kings, maybe too much so, as it turns out. I gave in, after talking it over with my wife. We left for the Lennon’s home in Tittenhurst, England. Way out in the country. My son was playing Frisbee with John in the morning and driving his electric cart; pretty heady. They were given tickets to music festivals and private limousines. 

I am leaving out all mention of sessions to respect their privacy but there were some very funny episodes all the way. I recount this little bit because it was the height of Beatlemania and the kids had the time of their lives. It could only happen once in a lifetime. After a month, I had to get back to my patients and I left for home. The Lennons followed and continued the therapy for some time. Then one day John came to me asked if could I follow them to Mexico. He told me that a few months before he gave a concert for the Rocker John Sinclair, who denigrated President Nixon. John was put on Nixon’s enemies list and was being deported. He had just a few months of therapy and was really just beginning to open up. It was the worst time to stop but I could not go to Mexico, neither could my staff. We were overloaded with patients. I rarely saw him after his deportation. I should add that he and I spent some time in a rental home in Bel-Air, quite posh. And we talked for hours. “Tell me about God,” he would ask. I said, “You know that God was just an idea to keep the pain away,” and then he wrote: "God is a concept by which we measure our pain."  We talked about his mother. I would make a few comments and he would write, “Momma, you had me but I never had you.” And on and on until he finished his Primal Album called The Plastic Ono Band, which I think is the most revealing of music I know of. To say nothing that soon after he wrote a song which I treasure: Imagine. I was a  musician who wrote music so how could I not be enthralled by John’s work?

David Foster and I wrote 36 songs, one of which -The Color of My Love- was recorded by Celine Dion and sold over eleven million albums. She got married to the song. That song contributed to my basic assets. It became part of a musical I wrote with David Foster called The Primal Scream, performed at a University theater to great success.

David Foster told me that he had a hard time writing with someone else, as I seem to know what he means by his music and he knows what music to put to my words. A song we wrote, Say my Name, was recorded by a wonderful young man who cried so much while singing that I had to keep my arm around him to allow him to go on. Oh yes, there is so much to write. He lived in his car near a police station, and he began to have delusions that they were going to come to kill him. He was mentally ill and was sent to a hospital near San Diego. His mental problems allowed him to sing like Sinatra, Elvis, and any one of a dozen singers. David Foster heard that the Queen was coming to Canada and he was invited to sing for her. He wanted our friend Warren to back him up but we did not know how to get him out. So Foster devised an idea: Warren would give a concert for the head psychiatrist of the hospital to prove he was OK. So he did that just for the chief, and he was discharged. He went to Canada and sang. He was so full of pills he could not sing well and basically it was a disaster.  Not long afterwards he shot himself. I should add that when he was a child his father shot himself in the stomach in front of him. The loss of a most sweet and talented human being.  He was a mass of feeling that he could not feel. 

Speaking of a great human being: France, my wife of 43 years. She effectively runs the clinic and teaches the therapy. She spent six long years making the Legacy program, over a hundred videos of how to do this therapy for both patients and psychologist. A labor of total dedication to this therapy that also saved her life, literally. She is French and helped me open up and direct the Paris French Institute in 1980. Almost immediately, we were overwhelmed with applications partly because my book came out there and was Book of the Month. We had a five story building and our therapy was going night and day, until France’s health started to break down. She was losing her hair. A three hour special just came out on French TV and it seemed like the whole world was trying to get into our therapy. It is there that we began serious research and worked with hospitals and universities in France and England. These were double-blind studies in psychology and biochemistry.  Our work was published in scientific journals. 

A man came to see me and I showed him some films of patients reliving their birth.  At the end he stood up and shouted, “I am vindicated!” It was Frédérick Leboyer, author of Birth Without Violence, a book that began to change the birth practices in hospitals and clinics all over the world. A “Leboyer birth” is a soft, gentle, non-drug birth where he took the baby right after birth, gave him a warm bath and played the flute for him as he was welcomed the newborn into this world… We became friends and I adore him. He saw in the agonizing reliving of birth in my patients what he was trying to tell doctors.  

As France’s health got worse, I told her we were going to close the Paris Institute. We could not go on like that. She said that with all our patients needing help, how could we do that? I told her the choice was keeping the clinic going or losing my wife. No choice at all. We closed and moved to Los Angeles so she could recuperate. She did, and while I swore I would never open again, patients were waiting for us in Los angeles. Two years went by and we decided to open a small clinic in Santa Monica.  Again, it was self deception because we found that we were full very quickly.  Again, more research at UCLA and more writing in science. Then, a new development: countries like Russia were telling me that wanted to publish my book. And they did without my permission and without me receiving any royalties. Several major publishing houses stole my book, and because it was in Europe there was nothing I could do about  it.  So now we have a constant flow of patients from Russia and other countries. 

There is now a plethora of psychiatrists in every country using my name and books to say they are Primal Therapists. I would not mind but what they do is phony ineffective treatment and patients get worse. I have no legal recourse. Right now there are people showing their photo, claiming to be graduate Primal therapists.  And then their patients come to us to pick up the pieces. Not so easily done. Primal is not like other psychological treatments. It is complex, takes a long time to learn, and is based on science, not booga booga. Charlatans do not have time and patience for science. Their goal is money and profits. Who suffers? Human beings who desperately seek help. Even Steve Jobs went to someone who advertised Primal Therapy. Result were not good. He never had a chance with someone without a day of training. He paid the ultimate price. I can never guarantee that we will do better or cure someone, but at least with science the patient has the best chance to get well.   We see so many patients now who have come from clinics using my name and who have been badly hurt and it is now our job to undo bad therapy and help them toward health.  Caveat emptor. 

There are all kinds of thieves in this world but those who steal our health and ultimately our lives, are the most egregious. We have no desire for a monopoly but we must protect patients from charlatans. The problem is that there are therapists with 20 years of experience who begin to practice Primal Therapy, saying to themselves, “How hard could it be? If Janov could do it so can I.” Oh no you can’t. I see the results daily in those who come to us for help. The problem is that those who went to Booga booga therapists never know they were harmed. They abreact and it feels like therapy. It is not until later, when they begin their chronic depression and it seems like such a mystery. We are plunging deep in the brain, something never to be fooled with. There is now no reason to reinvent the wheel. We have gone through thousands of patients over 50 years and have learned what to do, and above all, what not to do. If we harmed anyone, it was by inadvertence and trying to learn. No one has the right to experiment again on humans. With advanced patients, I often, after a session, ask if I made a mistake. It is their body and they often know better than me. Especially if they have been Primaling for a long time. This question has helped me learn a lot.

I often think of those addiction rehab centers, treating serious addiction with pure booga booga treatment. With all the accouterments of exercise programs, great food, lectures, massages, and patients not having to work. Who can beat that? Almost anyone who is willing to do the same thing with no therapy at all. Lots of hugs will do it. Why does this field attract so many pretenders? Now I know. Because psychology is not a science and cannot really help seriously mental ill patients.  So of course charlatans step in. I don’t like being harsh nor sounding arrogant, but I feel I must protect suffering souls who do not know any better. And even that smells of sulfur, as they say in France (ça sent le soufre).  A bit self-serving. But I have seen so much damage in the name of psychotherapy that it makes me heartsick. We have not taken any salary for many years, and do not practice therapy for profit.  Years ago we made a profit in order to practice therapy.  Now we make nothing and it is fine with us. But I do not recommend this approach to new therapists because they will not stay around very long.  So if we don’t make a profit, what on earth are we protecting?   Patients. I have never believed that health should be a matter of profit. It is far too precious for that.  Alas, I am trapped in a capitalistic system. The way it turns out is we have been taught to abhor socialism and love free enterprise. But what I have seen in health is that it is socialism for the latifundium who control health, and capitalism for the poor. Too many have to cut down on their medicine in order to pay their doctor bills. And sometimes it is a matter of life or death. That can’t be right.

So my wife soldiers on, and runs the clinic in every way, something I cannot do. I know nothing about business and legal issues or accounting or what one needs to run a major clinic. I might add that she was one of the most beautiful women in France when we first went there, but it was not just her allure, it was her great intelligence to go with it. I have a bias but facts have proven me right. To  produce a major work like the Legacy is one of intelligence, persistence and deep understanding of the human condition. Yes, she could have spent those years shopping,  but she often insisted that it would be for the vacuous empty heads who are satisfied with their looks and nothing more. She is the complete woman, and a Frenchie, besides.

We lived in France for years, had mostly French friends and lived the French life. I did something that is so out of place for me. Thanks to Celine Dion and the song Foster and I wrote for her, I bought a boat; a 70 foot motor cruiser, and found out I was not allowed to run it without a French Pilot’s license. So I took the test which apart from my doctorate was the toughest thing I could do. It was only in French  and the technical terms were difficult.  How many degrees  do you need to make this turn and how many toots do you need to warn other boats of your maneuver? And on and on. I passed and got my license and the right to go where I wanted. And we did, all over the Mediterranean to Greece, Italy, Rhodes, Sardinia, and Corsica. It was great and I learned about navigation. That reminds me that Senator Ted Kennedy came on board and we decided to take small boats to two different islands. We dove off the boat and all of a sudden there were patrol boats following him everywhere and not one for me. They were making sure of his safety. They had their priorities fairly straight. Alas, I had no worth to them.  He had worth for the country.

Having lived and worked in France for years I became a Francophile. Their environmental protection laws are strict. And to this day there are words I use in French that have no English translation: engrenage. All of us should learn a foreign language.  It expanded my group of friends exponentially. And what I read, as well.  My world became larger and far more interesting. To go to the museums and understand the lectures was critical. To inform French doctors what was wrong helped with my treatment. And on and on. But the friendships we made were so engaging: bank presidents, actors, artists, scientists, etc. I worked in an English hospital for a time and met fascinating scientists and learned and learned, doing double blind research on human behavior. We had retreats all over Europe, in the mountains and at the sea. We all cooked together and rapped together and gave concerts for each other: magic. Some became lifelong friends.

I spent a good deal of time in England while living in France. I had a meeting with Diane Cilento, Sean Connery’s wife. The night before, the BBC called me and asked if I had ever heard about the Screamers. No, I had not. They described them to me and said they claimed to be my adepts.  I said no, they are probably nuts and had nothing to do with me. That almost sealed my fate. At my hotel at 5AM there was a loud knock on the door. A guy in an IRA uniform shouted “Janov?!” He was in a combat uniform and looked ready for battle.  He tried to break down the door; and he and I wrestled over keeping it closed and locked. I pushed him hard and closed the door and yelled to my sleeping wife to call the front desk. She tried but they had someone on the phone downstairs so we could not get through. The hotel called the police, 50 of them who surrounded the hotel. Now Cilento arrived and was also surrounded. She had no idea what was happening, but we ate safely. And then we escaped the hotel and checked in elsewhere. The police put us in a taxi and kept us on the floor until we had gone several miles.

It was a strange ambience in London. My friend Ronnie Laing, a well known psychiatrist, was giving hallucinogens to his patients and no one thought it was a bad thing.  Ronnie was a sweet man but he did harm by not probing the effects of his drugs on patients. It was in the zeitgeist and became the thing to do if you were “hip.” They  all paid a price for this; those with strong defenses were less damaged;  the problem was that it attracted those fragile souls who were damaged. Meanwhile Ronnie concocted a new theory of the implantation Primal.  That, he said, is where it all began. This without a single clinical trial. It was pure guesswork and fantasy. He invited me to one of his lectures. I thought it made no sense, so I made a comment about it. My companion said, “who cares, it is fascinating and interests me a lot.”  One for the Gipper. I missed the point: it was pure show business and I could never compete with that. But, though he was a pal, I knew that he was delivering harm in the guise of show business and entertainment.  He had already taken so much of his own medicine that he didn’t care. He knew it was helping because he believed it liberated him. He attracted some very smart professionals, none of whom thought about studying the effects of the drugs he was giving. When these people came to believe they were one with the Cosmos, they all thought it was a good thing and was truly liberating. It was what I call “institutionally validated psychosis.” All the shrinks thought it was good for us, so it must be. Oh no, it wasn’t. I would also like to believe I was liberated but it was far from that.  The druggie’s  minds were not only open but they became a sieve so that any nonsense became believable. When I write, sieve, I mean that literally, as the gating system holding back pain became fragmented and inefficient. “Leaky gates”. Constraints were gone but so was rationality.

Speaking of drugs, some of the inhabitants of Haight Ashbury, San Francisco, the drug capital of he nation, came to see me. Most were basket cases, mostly paranoid, some dangerous, all were overdosed on LSD and other hallucinogens. They wanted me to help them,  they could not sleep, plus a myriad of other symptoms such as lost concentration, but I tried, to no avail. I did not know enough in those days to treat them properly. Now I do. Nightmare of nightmares, their use is coming back for their treatment of anxiety, depression and God knows what else. In my opinion, these drugs are more dangerous than heroin. I say this not because of statistical studies but because we have studied humans who have taken them. Now horror of horrors, there is a renaissance of electroshock therapy. Why? Because conventional psychotherapy is a failure. Instead of thinking maybe we need a new kind of therapy, and it does exist now, they believe we need new kinds of drugs. This is akin to voodoo. A new magic chemical to transform us. We transform people time and again but we do it based on a dynamic understanding of what is wrong. But there are those who have gotten help, they insist, from therapy. I say, it is a giant M… F… How can anyone get well when he has someone telling him how to live, how to make decisions, what to do about this situation or another. He is learning dependence, not independence. He is learning how to live someone else’s life, not his own. He is not learning how to stand on his own feet. He has borrowed a mother or father to make up for what he never had. But he needs to feel his need for a caring, helping parent, not to act it out with a stranger called doctor. The rental for those people is high and last and lasts. My therapists do not do that, telling people how to act. They learn from their history how to put themselves back together. What do I mean? What is missing? Pure unfulfilled need. That is what is missing. Therapy should never be doctor-oriented. I had that kind of therapy and I practiced that kind of therapy: useless. Nobody can tell you how to lead your life. It is your life, remember. Learning how to lead my own life ought to be enough.   

I came back pretty messed up from my war years and sought out an Analyst for help. We analyzed my dreams for most of every hour. I learned nothing and certainly nothing germane to my life. But, but here is what I did learn from my own Primal therapy: I became fully conscious and have not had a symbolic dream in many years.  I know what my dreams mean; no one has to analyze them for me. Why? My conscious and unconscious are very close, in effect they have merged, and their meanings are not deeply buried. That is why I now know what makes me behave the way I do. Having felt those deep needs and feelings, I am now in control. It is not even control. My unconscious is available to me. I have to laugh at the new, “Anger management” therapy. They are using lectures and insights from the top neocortex to manage feelings that are far down in the brain, untouched by ideas and words.  Just one lesson in brain development would help them stop that nonsense. They need a therapy that deals with feelings. A therapy that deals with causes, deprivation of needs and lack of fulfillment. A therapy about deprivation, deprivation, and oh yes, deprivation. What is missing? Love, caring, protection, warmth and kisses and hugs.  Feelings are not destined to be managed; feelings are to be felt. 

I am again reminded that in the early years, my therapy attracted a lot of disturbed and dangerous people; strange phone calls, threats, so much so that I had to stay away from the clinic for a while and on and on. That was then. Now our patients are much more in control, taking much less drugs and needing help. The original applicants were far more disturbed than now. I call it having a garden variety neurosis, at this time.  But quite treatable. 

What we find now is that first line pain is very much there and imprinted but we know far more about how to deal with it. We are careful not to allow pains to emerge that cannot be integrated. That is a danger in deep Primal Therapy. It is a fine line we treat and we watch the sign posts so we do not intrude on lower levels of brain function before it can be experienced.  


  1. Really appreciate your personal post about your life. It's uplifting to hear something so true and real and meaningful about your journey with primal therapy in contrast to this seemingly crazy time of political nothingness swirling about us.

    1. Hi Sheri,

      Thanks for the kind words. It is why I write. Art

  2. Some time ago I've contacted with few publishing houses to ask if they are interested to translate some of your books, of course wihtout answers. They all ae so afraid of PT. All therapy market in Poland is just stunk with this behavioristic approches, I am kicking myself that I am so deep all of this, I can not get any help here.

  3. Art, it is a privilege to read this.

    Thanks and kind regards,


  4. I learned a lot from reading this; thank you Art. Seems like you also have "dealt" with people being prejudice ( or maybe it was also some jealousy). But fortunately for all of us, you "carried on" (persevered). Life can be hard, very difficult at times...people can be so untrustworthy and just plain evil now. The pain that people can cause other people it's just not right; even for people who never went through a birth trauma get "hit" by others and feel the repercussions. The accomplishments you have made are absolutely "awesome"! I was glad to read that you had purchased a boat, and have cruised around some. What is written here, shows that one has to "carry on"; and how important it is to be strong (physically and mentally) but yet still have feelings.

  5. Hello Art!

    What an incredible trip!

    To imagine something like what you've been through without being influenced for the worse for the question of how your own confidence gets a blow and does not work as it should in such a sensitive process as primal therapy is... to be around so many celebrities in such a sensitive situation must been a contradiction for what we can do without it deteriorating. But at the time when you may not was so conscious about how attention blocked your scientific path... how it degraded your opportunities for your own process is for science to investigate.

    I wonder how much it affected you being around so many celebrities... how much it worsening your emotional ability to be present in your own process of therapy? Keeping your fragile emotions at consciousness must have been hard when the attention on you and your personality was so vulnerable. But in the same time it was you.

    Trying too be at your best when many connections are missing could not have been the most ideal situation. We could probably have lost you!

    Your Frank

  6. Really interesting. It seems a pity about John Lennon to this day I see comments that he realised the therapy was a fad - 'imagine' if he had carried on with it..

    1. What a shame to be in the grips of someone who had mental illness. Art

  7. Like Eroll Flynn's pre-Hollywood biography, amazing! Absolutely Amazing!!!

    Leonard Cohen in his song 'Chelsea Hotel' quotes Janis Joplin, who "said she preferred handsome men, but for me she would make an exception".

    Well, I don't read autobiographies, but for you Art, I will make an exception, haha!

    Your writing is among the most well-written, easy flowing, interesting, fascinating, mesmerizing literature I've ever had the priviledge to read.

    Names like John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway come to mind, regarding social concerns, honesty, adventure and style. This is not a ranking list, just my thought you are among the best.

    Waiting patiently for your autobiography. Maybe not a global hit like the 'Sream', but a valuable complement to The Legacy. I thank you.


  8. Art,

    Maybe your capacity for originality comes from giving up on 'measuring up' to your parents, because they didn't and wouldn't care rather than becoming a 'typical conservative', you went another way....if I may speculate? (And I think I'm describing myself in part with that. I hardly cared what my parents thought, positive or negative, especially as a late teen).

    Anyway! I think I might have suggested it before, but have you tried to talk with Donald Trump?... promoting the idea of focusing on supporting good childcare in the earliest stages, as a national initiative? Trump is not as dumb as he looks, and has an instinct for people who are and are not worth listening to. He also has shown sincere interest in the issue of mental sickness. He understands how important it is at least.

    1. Andrew, I'm wondering if Trump has any interest in psychology at all. He once said in an interview that he didn't spend anytime in reflection about himself, that he was afraid he might not like what he found.

    2. Hi Sheri & Andrew,

      The mere thought of discussing Primal with Donald Trump makes me feel sick.

      It's hard enough getting past the denial of ordinary neurotics (like myself). I think I'd rather chew off my own leg.

      My experience of people with 'personality disorders' is limited but I certainly have met them and had the unfortunate experience on the 'receiving end'. They are all so 'out there' they are totally blind to human motives beyond those base instincts that drive them. Power, sex, money, riches, fame etc etc and they believe all people should be like it too.

      I do have experience of 'borderline cases' such as my brother and father who persist in believing what psychos tell them to believe in accord with their own neurotic denial.

      That surely is how the psychos control many of us?

      I genuinely fear what the powerful psychopathic elite know about epigenetics and neurosis, surely they know how we respond to threats? Governments have very well informed psychologists and psychiatrists working for them; advising and helping the elite keep control. . .

      I would prefer Primal remained in the shadows for this reason alone. But it has been said that only the seeker finds the truth and the truth for the psychos is all out there, never inside. A distinctly two edged sword.

      Paul G.

    3. Paul, Through no fault of my own the therapy is in the shadows. I never learned how to promote. Art

    4. Hi Art,

      most people just don't want to know and Primal promotes itself through your books anyway, so actually you do know how to promote. But it's only the people who are looking who read your books and find it. Those who are waiting for a doctor to 'diagnose & treat' them are still waiting for a bus that will never arrive. For now, I am not at the right bus stop either but at least I know it. Currently trying to remember how I got here. . .

      Paul G.

  9. Thanks for this fascinating & informative read, Art. As I've said before, a full biography would be wonderful, if you ever get to it.


  10. I have always been so fraudulently confident... but to survive... how would it have been if I had not?


  11. I know that I repaeat myself but before you I haven't know someone who told true.

    1. Thanks Piotr but your message is not clear. Art

    2. I guess you mean who told the trust. Art.

    3. I mean that beside you I know only one person who was on similiar path it was Alice Miller. You just told straight what it is all about. No cheating and false ideas, just true.

  12. Amazing story, Art.

    Thanks for writing it.

    I did not see my parents for the last 10 yrs of their lives.

    And rarely talked to them. I was mad and crazy. I had a multitude of functional disorders. I could barely work.

    I was so sick from PTSD (the trauma from beatings) in child hood, (that I was barely hanging on to life) that I did not go to their funerals in 2007.

    And if I was not sick, I would not have felt like going in any event.

    It was almost 2000 miles away.

    Mom was ok, but it was Dad who inflicted all the violence.

    Dad was hard on mom too.

    Dad's parents were from Ukraine.

    From the little bits of information I picked up through life, I gathered that he was beaten too, and now that I know what mental disorders are and what causes them, and how to read people, (see, read and understand symptoms) I know that he was suffering from his own mental disorders. Nothing went right for him in life. It was failure after failure. He tried to do everything with force.

    We lived on a cattle farm. He could never make the cattle do what he wanted them to do. When my brothers, I and dad were working with the cattle, the cattle would never cooperate. We would be having a crazy wild rodeo with nothing going right, and cattle escaping and rebelling. After a few hrs we would give up and would have to call mom from the house to help. When she would come, the cattle would calm down, and she would talk to them and get the cattle to do what ever she wanted them to do and the work was all done well within the hour in good order.


  13. An email comment:
    "As Spock said to Captain Kirk: "I have been, and always shall be, your friend."

    And frankly, I cannot feel anything special about that as I can't imagine anyone who is at all honest with themselves who wouldn't say exactly the same regarding having known you in any sense, especially those who have known you personally.

    I tend to preach off shoots of things you say to everyone I feel I can talk to, endorsing emotional intelligence classes in our schools, more research into PTSD and coordinating such research with your theories and practices. I was also impressed that you feel as I do about having a more socialistic society. I was an avid supporter of Bernie Sanders for that reason. However, I agree with you that systems of government alone can't change things without a concurrent change in the health of individuals.

    France seems to be one wonderful country. I hope they gain greater influence in the world.

    You are both so lucky to have found each other, and anyone who works with you two are equally blessed. It feels so strange not knowing how to address these letters, and I assume someone looks them over before submitting them for any review to protect needed time. So, I will simply say that I wish all of your wonderful team the very best always.

    I seem to listen sometimes to a music I can't hear, and it is so beautiful it brings tears to my eyes, and when I think of you guys, and your team, I find those same feelings.

    Hey, at the risk of being corny and with the hope of some small effect of humor, I say "Live long and prosper." ;)"

  14. Hi Art,

    Do you remember a fire at the Primal Institute - early 1980's?

    1. I was no longer there but I heard about it. What was it about? Art

    2. Don't know the details, but heard it may have been a disgruntled patient who tried several times to get a fire going.

      Dealing with mental health sufferers is dangerous - with attacks on hospital staff, domestic killings, retirement home killings, police ambushes. Lots of pain out there.

    3. That was the arson in June 1989. There's a short article in the LA Times archive.

    4. Oh boy do I know about that. I can fill a book with all the threats and threatened attacks. Art

    5. I was gone by then as I know nothing about it. Art

  15. Hi Art,
    you may have heard of Edward Bernays, the nephew of Sigmund Freud. He developed 'PR' as a direct outshoot from the theories of the unconscious of those times.

    There is a very good documentary series by the English journalist Adam Curtis called 'Century Of The Self' in which much of what you allde to here is discussed in terms of the political manipulations that came out from Freud and Bernays. It's very good and available on U Tube:

    I think this link should be the right one, if it's not just Google Century of the Self by Adam Curtis.

    It seems so appropriate to your post above.

    Paul G.

  16. Really great reading about the Lennon primal thing. Still exerts a fascination for me. Reliable information from that period is sparse. Lennon is supposed to have written a song for Ellen.

    On a pedantic note though, since Ellen was born April 22nd 1953 and a junior at Rexford High in 1969, she would've been 17 in 1970 (and Rick, 14).


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.