Dr. Arthur Janov's Primal Center
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Primal Healing:  Full Description and Reviews

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Primal Healing is Dr. Janov's magnum opus, the culmination of decades of clinical observation and research. Here he melds current research in biology and neurology with his clinical work to produce a definitive thesis regarding how any psychotherapy that uses words as the predominant mode of therapy cannot make profound change. Dr. Janov traces the route of feeling from the brainstem to the prefrontal cortex, indicating how repression sets in to block our feelings to create a whole host of neurotic behaviors and physical symptoms. He illustrates how effective therapy or "cure" involves unblocking the repressive barrier and allowing lower level imprinted feelings to rise to the frontal neocortex.

More on Primal Healing:

What he is attempting here is for the first time a true science of psychotherapy, indicating what changes in the physiology and brain must take place in order for effective treatment to occur. It is the first therapy to take vital sign readings before and after each session, and relate those readings to what the patient has been or is undergoing in therapy. His 4 different brain research studies have shed light on brain function and psychological states. He believes that it is important to know how repression works in the system, and to the end has measured a serotonin equivalent in a double blind study. The results indicate that inhibitory chemicals normalize after one year of primal therapy.

His concepts of overload and shutdown are essential for an understanding of the human condition. Dr. Janov discusses Cognitive, Behavior and Insight therapies at length indicating how and where they fail, and why they cannot cure any psychologic diseases. He shows that correcting attitudes, beliefs and ideas in cognitive-insight approaches is a vain exercise due to the imprint of early trauma which has been engraved into the neurophysiologic system, affecting all of our later behavior. To neglect the imprint means to neglect the possibility of cure. He points out that any ahistoric therapy that ignores the past is bound to fail, whether acupuncture, guided imagery, decision therapy, conditioning therapy or the cognitive approach. All approaches can help but that is a far cry from cure. Cure must be tied to generating sources. If we neglect those sources we cannot be effective.

Dr. Janov describes what brain must be involved in psychotherapy, pointing out that all the helpful, ego-here-and-now approaches neglect those deep lying brain systems in favor of dealing with the neocortex. This makes their therapy "skin deep." He indicates how early love sculpts the brain and that very early trauma can alter the structure of the brain. As adults we are therefore not dealing with a full deck, literally, in the sense that pre-birth and birth trauma diminish nerve cells in the controlling, integrating prefrontal cortex. He therefore offers a new concept of the impulse neuroses and how to treat them.

Dr. Janov diagrams the brain and shows how and why reliving old traumas is essential for therapeutic improvement. He notes that because heavy valence pain is sealed into the system by the stress hormones (catecholamines), any therapy must arrive at an equally emotional level in order to unhinge the traumas from their hidden lair. He states that any proper psychotherapy must test the patient's brain and physiology for changes. Cognitive groups lead a self-fulfilling prophecy: patients have psychological problems, we treat only the psychological neocortex, and then test the patient afterward in terms of ideas and attitudes to see if they have made progress. What the patient "thinks," therefore becomes paramount. He can think he has made progress but his brain and body may betray him. If people are happy enough in this kind of therapy so be it; but people should know that there are deeper more efficient ways that deal with deep causes, that this kind of therapy is more than "help," it is long lasting; the only long lasting therapy extant.


Throughout the book are simple cartoon drawings of how words cannot do it, and how feelings can.


He discusses recovered memory syndrome and where those early traumas are lodged in the brain, how this must connect to the prefrontal cortex for final resolution. Connection is the sine qua non of any proper therapy; that means lower level imprints must rise in hierarchal order to the neocortex, lowering the pain level and allowing the body and brain to normalize. Brain research indicates that this is happening. What Dr. Janov emphasizes is that neurosis is an organic state not a mental aberration.

He insists that we can only heal where we are wounded. Wounds from childhood and before are kept low in the brain and dictate behavior later on. He shows how neurosis affects the brain and how "cure" normalizes it; for example, a better balance between right and left hemispheres. The brain is less speedy and has a lower amplitude, meaning less nerve cells (neurons) are recruited in the service of repression. It is, in short, a different more efficient brain. This is by no means a text in neurology; rather it is a book about psychology and neurosis and how our history dictates our present. All proper therapies, medical and psychological must be historic in focus.

From his book (content in final version of book may vary):


I want to show here how profound personality change is not possible on the level of words, or even on the level of emotions - such as crying and screaming - as long as deep levels of the brain are not involved and as long as the connections are not made between deep brain memories and the higher cortex.

Conventional psychotherapy has been imbued with the belief that you get well in your mind - in your thinking, logical, rational, prefrontal cortex - in brief, that you can think your way to health.

The logical corollary is that you get sick in your mind. You can think your way to sickness, therefore, it is all in your mind. So if you change your mind you change your state of health. Thus what we think about our health is what counts. We may think we are getting well, but that is not the same as being well. We can think we are well but if we have a cancer it doesn't matter what we think. If we can get well by what we think, are we sick if we think we are sick? Or are we just sick in the mind? If we are only sick in the mind can we only then get well in the mind?


Advance praise for Primal Healing from Dr. David A. Goodman, Director of the Newport Neuroscience Center, San Marcos, California, USA:

When I am in New York City, I take a taxicab. The driver pushes down the flag and off we go. When we arrive at the destination, I pay him for the journey in which I came along for the ride. Now switch to a psychotherapist. You enter her office. She flips down the flag on the meter and you talk. You talk and you talk. Her bill arrives later in the month.

Arthur Janov takes taxi rides and he offers an effective therapy where feelings often overwhelm talk. You know what is your destination:  connection with your limbic brain, getting in touch with childhood emotional pain. I watched a 43-year old man writhe on the floor for 45 minutes because his father did not buy him the shiny two-wheeler he wanted at age eight.

I advise you turn the meter off, open the pages of Primal Healing, and catch the ride of your lifetime. Forty years of neuroscience research, including one with Michael Holden working with Dr. Janov, convince me that he has discovered a way to rewire neurons in your brain. Stay with the talk psychologist for long enough and she will wire your bank account into her bank account.


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