Saturday, February 18, 2017

My Life: Practicing Primal Therapy

Because of my divorce dictum (I was going to call it an agreement), I could no longer practice in an English speaking country. My French wife, France, and I moved to Paris and opened a French clinic which was packed from the first day. We began our research program in London and flew blood samples back and forth from Paris. We studied the immune system and natural killer (NK) cells to see what happened in therapy. After one year the NK cells grew very fast. These were the cells to survey the system. As soon as a cancer cell began its life, the NK cells searched them out and killed them. Maybe that was why we saw so little cancer in our advanced patients. We studied other aspects as well. We found that body temperature dropped after one year of Primal Therapy, as well as heart rate and blood pressure. Clearly, as we took out internal pain the system was no longer lumbering under heavy pressure. Most importantly, there was the one degree drop in body temperature, which told us that maybe longevity is increased as the system’s workload lessened. There is a theory that for every one degree enduring drop in body temperature, there is a corresponding increase in longevity.  

Europe became a heavy load with a five story building running night and day. Patients came from Europe, by and large, and stayed much longer back then because there were far less Visa restrictions to force patients out. Now in the USA, they are limited, which slows their therapy considerably. We treated a wide range of patients from ambassadors to a sort of terrorists, who were not that at all. They claimed to be revolutionists  but they were the kindest and smartest people I met. We did therapy in several languages and it was really a polyglot group. We did research with several universities and it was all exciting stuff.

We had the clinic in a giant building in Paris, with an old fashion bathtub in the basement. France was treating a 65 year old doctor who never left her village. Why? Because she was a bed better and was so ashamed of it. France had a hunch, and took her down below into the bathtub. She gave the doctor orders to totally relax and let herself go in the tub. She did, and what happened? She urinated. Only now she felt what it was all about: it was the only warmth she ever felt. Soon after, we received postcards from her from all over the world. She was free. No more neurosis.

Here is an example to emphasize how we are a therapy of experience and not of ideas. We had a male patient obsessed with women’s feet and shoes. Our male therapist painted his nails, wore shorts and had the patient sit looking at his feet as he dangled them. Every time the patient tried to touch his feet, the therapist abruptly drew his feet away. Soon the patient was crying and screaming, “Mommy, Mommy, let me touch you.” His mother was a seamstress who did her work in front of her child. She never touched him but he watched her, transfixed, aching to touch her. She kicked him away as a pest, over and over again. His need continued to grow until it was acted out in the street or peering through windows, risking arrest. He finally resolved this act-out after much therapy. The need to be hugged and caressed, that was the simple answer. The force of his original need became the force behind his importuning obsession. The failed effort is usually an attempt to stop the symbolic acting-out. It is an effort to change and block a symbol of the need, not the basic biologic need itself. In every act-out, we must go much deeper to find that need and deal with it. That is what is biologic and real.

In a way our therapy is simple: find the basic biologic need and relive how it was not fulfilled.  But Oh My!  It is so much more than that. Those needs are sequestered by a labyrinth of defenses and are difficult to find. First we need to deal with how the need is ramified as to be unrecognizable. We have to find ways to dig out the essence of the feeling. The complexities became, duh……complex. Neurosis dies hard.

In group, I sometimes had die-hard atheists pray to God for fulfillment: “hold me, cherish me, love me.”  Why God? Because I was after the need, and God became the channel for need. I had to find a neutral channel for patients to express need. Once they get to need, even the atheists crumble in tears because that is where the tears lie hidden. Otherwise they would see the faces of the parents whom they were importuning, and grow cold and feelingless. Anent the act out, some patients refuse to do what is necessary to get well: stop medication, start medication, whatever. If we stay hung up on their bad behavior, we will never get to what is real: “I am hopeless and cannot be helped. What’s the use? I am a failure. No one can help me.”

My education began in France with my new French family. We lived high above Aix en Provence, overlooking a beautiful city. They only spoke French to each other, and I decided I would never let it happen again, that I would never be left out of esoteric and fascinating discussions. I learned French and took part in conversations, and it was erudite and informational as I ever knew. I never had a family and this was certainly an example of what was missing. I learned French fast because now I had someone to talk to but it was not in my natal (Maternal) language. A small impediment.

I soon led the French life, reading French magazines and watching French TV, which I do to this day. Nearly all of our friends were French and among them some creative and intelligent people. I do not plan to name drop but our pals were in many of the arts and I was so proud of them, including an actress whom I saw mostly nude in a film when I was in high school. Years later she lived with us and as happens in France there was much nude swimming. Sometimes I thought I was dreaming. But no. I was just living in a sane and non-prudish country, France. Many of the public beaches were nudist. All healthy and non pejorative. Non moralistic. There were many examples of this throughout France.

After years in France, I got permission to practice in the USA so we returned to America.  France’s health was breaking from the load of patients in Paris and she needed a long rest, which she got. We opened a small training center in Santa Monica which blossomed again into a major worldwide clinic, the majority of patients from Europe. I am in my nineties now and am cutting back but I still write books and the blog every day.

There are still hundreds of pretenders throughout the world using my name and my therapy to mislead patients, usually with bad results. They have my books on their desks and to all appearances they are associated with me… Without  a day’s training. That is why it is always best to check with us as to who is qualified and who is not.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Why Primal Therapy Needs No Doctor

I write this is as an academic hall of fame in psychology and with years of psychology training and years of training in psychiatric social work. Plus an extra year of post-graduate internship in psychiatric social work. So I have an idea of what is involved. The whole training system needs to be junked and brought up to date with modern science. Right now, it is not a science that can make people well. It is a lot of tinkering, much of which I did in my earlier years on staff at hospitals and clinics.  
 
Now the powers that be are making it impossible to master any kind of science. They believe by adding more years of classes, and internships, and lectures, it will somehow build into a cure. I believe it will not, and just be busy work to make it look like a science, which it isn’t. The requirements for a license now are prohibitive and ineffective.  It makes students jump through hoops, which are simple impediments to learning. The most advanced of my trainees were the Ph.D candidates. All of whom failed training because they were so intellectual and had their feelings ground out of them. They could not sense when to make a move with a patient and how to do it. It became “mental”  illness for them with feelings left behind. They learned to treat patients with insights and rationales with no understanding of brain science. Worse, with no idea about the role of feelings in neocortex function, which in therapy is crucial. 
 
Making it difficult is not the same as making it understandable and treatable. And piling on more ethics courses will not help. Normal therapists are ethical, by definition. The failures were the ones who were unethical, trying sometimes to be the patient’s friend and pal, instead of his doctor. 
 
So what do we need? A feeling therapist, first and foremost. Then a minimum of brain science, then some biochemistry to see how neurosis works in the body.  But the tool is the therapist and he has to be sensitive to the patient’s feelings and needs and his deep-lying imprints. I have confirmed that over fifty years of training to see who can treat and who cannot. It is never the people in their head who can help and cure; it is those who are connected to their feeling centers. Just the opposite of today’s training in psychiatry and psychology. I am poster boy #1. What I learned almost never helped me do therapy and certain never helped me understand what a cure involved. It never help me get to my feelings; they were mostly afterthoughts. For 100 years now, it is still about insights and reasons and explanations.
 
So what is wrong with that? An outside doctor can never tell what is inside a patient because he learns from his system, above all.  As feelings come up, he is informed what forces he has been hiding and what has driven him all these years. No foreign expert can do that because the expert and the only expert is the patient. For the patient, it is a crime to rob him of his epiphanies, his sole discoveries and his new ability and power to change himself. He  knows what upcoming feelings can be approached, and what feelings must lie quiescent for the moment.  He knows what feelings can be overloading and produce the deadly abreaction. And if an outsider pushes him, what he gets too often is abreaction because an outsider cannot know when the patient is ready for the descent into the lower depths of the brain. And that is what we don’t need ,well trained intellectuals who cannot sense what the patient can take and cannot take. 
 
If we can off our narcissism for a minute and make psychotherapy patient centered and not doctor centered, where he is not the owner of the domain of the cognoscenti but also a learner of the human condition, then we see no need for the phalanx of specialists who know everything about this symptom or that, but nothing about the internal life of the patient. We then have a cabal of those who ignore deep history of the patient, deep history of his very early key life and the history, not of his intellectual development but that of his emotions. We need to study the whole human, not in the booga booga Holistic Therapy sense, but of the dynamic interactions of all of his systems, not the least of which is his brain. 
 
I think  that is what training and supervision in the Primal world is all about, and after many decades we do get neurochemical change. We do get cure, as I define it as in behavior and in medical normalization. That is a lot but I cannot deny the results we get, and today they are awesome.  Remember, a tough school does not necessarily mean a good school. It is just tough; a school for masochists where upon graduation they hand you your diploma wrapped  in a sculpture of your neo-cortex, with testicles hanging and with a note: good luck.  

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.
Editor