If I decide to undergo Janovian Primal Therapy how long before I see improvement?
You may notice changes early, but the first few sessions are mostly about learning the process of accessing underlying feelings. The first weeks can be difficult because you are learning something about yourself that has been hidden from your conscious awareness. This contrast can be magnified if you have experienced other types of talk therapies. People who have had extensive psychotherapy or therapy from an untrained primal therapist will need to be ‘regrooved’, which slows down the process.
Psychiatric medication blocks all feelings, good or bad, and psychology tries to mitigate the effects of primal pain by changing behaviour and thinking processes. Primal therapy aims to open the pathways between the three levels within the brain, so that the pain can be made conscious and dealt with. Once the pain is felt good feelings will dominate and behaviours will change in a positive way. This process can seem strange and takes some getting familiar with. Discovering that I had feelings was one of the most unusual things I faced during therapy.
After three months of therapy you should be settling into the process and changes will be occurring. As a therapist I make sure there is some improvement, or movement forward, occurring in every session. This helps to stop abreaction and from becoming ‘stuck’ at a particular point. Being stuck can happen because of the anxiety and fear generated from rising awful feelings. It was a large part of my training to guide people into those places they are scared to go. It is a process for the patient to understand that they can go to these really dark places and then safely return, feeling much better for the experience.
At six months major changes are common. Any alcohol intake will most likely reduce, attacks of anxiety and depression reduce in severity and frequency – plus understanding the causes helps to deal with these and other disorders during every day living. Anger also reduces in severity as you address the underlying causes.
Relationships with partners and other people improve. One man was able to more closely relate to his young children, because he was feeling how his own un-involved parents had damaged his ability to relate to others.
Although improvement should be obvious at six months, patients realise there is much more primal pain to feel. Good early improvement helps people to stay with the process in the longer term. One of the main advantages of modern Janovian primal therapy is that, because it has become so precise, the average session time is reduced, and more feelings can be felt over a given time frame.
Reliving primal pain can be almost unbearable and relentless, but it is worth the effort. I now realise I went through my life with a numb body, and a mind closed down to reality to avoid confronting my primal pain. Feeling has returned to my body and my mind works better and more expansively than I ever thought possible.
Improvements should begin early in the therapy process, but as you go deeper into the layers of your own mind, you will experience improvements of mind and body that you could never have imagined. I say this from personal experience, but it happens consistently with others who stay the distance.
Janovian primal therapy would have to be one of best therapies for the development of personal growth. When we suffer lack of love as children our natural development becomes stunted and low self-esteem is one of the results, along with anxiety and depression. Therapy removes the pain from the system, and then we can bloom as nature intended.
I would like to think that towards the end of the twenty first century the large majority of the human race will experience these higher levels of mind and body as a natural part of everyday living. The anomaly in all of this is that we need to have access to our lower levels of brain functioning to achieve what we currently refer to as our higher selves."The guru you seek is the power of your own inner wisdom.” (G Bates 2018)
Can I learn to self-primal?
Some people say they have but they are more than likely abreacting, meaning they can generate a feeling but it has no context or resolution. These feelings can bring relief in the short term, but they are not curative in the long term.
When people go into a feeling state the cognitive mind partially shuts down. With deep feeling there is very little cognitive function. This causes the self primaler to become lost or confused in the ‘rabbit holes’ of their mind. The primal therapist provides the necessary guidance to send the person deeper and in the correct direction. A good therapist also establishes context in the beginning, and knows how to finish a session so that resolution and integration can take place. There is no timetable in this process and is the reason why all sessions are open ended. If a therapist offers set session times they are not doing Janovian primal therapy.
If you are having regular therapy with a trained therapist, at some stage you will understand the process well enough to start having effective primals on your own, but will need the backup of a therapist if you become stuck. Learning to self-primal during therapy will benefit you for the rest of your life.Art Janov’s primal therapy has been described by some people as a cult. But Art always said that the aim of therapy is to get people in touch with their own feelings. This gives them access to their own powerful inner intelligence, and they are then free and able to stand on their own two feet and enjoy the world as they see fit.
Why isn’t Janovian primal therapy more widely recognised?
There are multiple reasons for this. From my experience I would say the largest barrier to Janovian primal therapy becoming mainstream is that it is inversely different to anything that orthodox medicine currently understands. By that I mean mainstream psychiatry and psychology work from a two-level down understanding (cognition, emotions), with cognition being able to over-ride the emotional/feeling brain.
Arthur Janov found that the psychological brain has three distinctly different levels of functioning. They are the cognition (prefrontal cortex), the feelings (limbic system) and sensations (brainstem). In this model the most powerful and influential level is undoubtedly the brainstem sensations. Everyone who undergoes therapy for long enough will get to experience these three levels.
All our universities are based on the intellectual/ cognitive brain. This type of learning can be passed on during a lecture or while reading a book. However, feelings and sensations have to be experienced personally to be understood. Intellectually trained people cannot understand what primal therapy is, or how it works to fix a damaged mind.
Most of the human race carry primal pain that is imprinted as sensation within the brainstem. As the sensation pushes upwards into the limbic system it is converted to feeling. We stay away from our feelings because they can be extremely painful.
From The Archaeology of Mind’ Panksepp/Bevin (p. 467):
"A majority of investigators interested in emotions, many of them arriving from language-based constructivist traditions in psychology, claim that we cannot draw meaningful and useful distinctions between cognitive and emotional processes.”
What Janov discovered was a way of opening up the doorway between cognition and feeling, enabling us to draw meaningful and useful distinctions between the two different levels. Not forgetting that there is another ‘doorway’ between feelings and sensations lower down in the structure of the brain. Science has some catching up to do.
The mainstream medical people are starting to understand that trauma (lack of love) stored in the body/mind causes a lot of mental illness. The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) research is so strong that it is already a major focus of many institutions in the United States.
For a really good description of how lack of love affects human functioning, read the work of Darcia Narvaez. Narvaez is just one of many orthodox practitioners who understand the causes of mental illness, but is deficient in her understanding of what the cure is.
During the later part of the twentieth century many practitioners were trying to develop effective therapeutic ways of healing trauma. Among those were Colin Ross’s Trauma Model, John Briere’s Complex Trauma Model and Ellert Nijenhuis’s Dissociation Model. Although these models claim some success, they are still based on the old two level down model of cognition/emotion that can never be therapeutic.
In more recent times we have Peter Levine, Bessel van der Kolk, Ruth Buczynski and Steven Porges being seen as leaders in their field of trauma treatment. But once again their approaches are from the two-level intellectual model. Their writings do not show any knowledge of the three levels of consciousness, with the need to treat the level of sensation. The suggested treatments include body movement, teaching resilience and a heavy reliance on mindfulness. None of these methods will treat the correct levels of the brain.
As I have mentioned elsewhere on this website, science proving the three levels of brain consciousness will be the biggest thing to happen to mankind in this century, because it literally turns our understanding from a two-level down to a three-level upwards brain. That will mean massive changes in all areas of human understanding, not just in mental health.
Another thing holding Janovian Primal Therapy back is the fact there are no controls as to who can practice the therapy. Anybody can call themselves a primal therapist, even without a days training or undergoing the therapy themselves. These people have given primal therapy a bad name because they can only deliver bad results. I am currently treating several people who had mock primal therapy, and are disappointed that their previous time and money was wasted. They did not get started on the correct feeling track, and so now have to start again.Of course, primal therapy also has a lot of bad history to get over, mainly because of all the insane and stupid things that went on around the world in the name of primal during the decades after Janov published his first book ‘The Primal Scream”.
How does Janovian Primal Therapy deal with Transference and Attachments?
Janov has been criticized because he did not include attachment and transference as part of his therapy. These are big issues to watch for in other therapies, but in modern day primal therapy they do not get established. They do not become a problem if the therapy is conducted correctly.If a therapist and patient are getting tangled up in transference and attachment issues, then the therapist is not doing effective therapy.
Is primal therapy unnecessarily retraumatising?
It depends on what retraumatising means to the individual. Primal therapy deals with the trauma that has already occurred and been repressed in the person’s subconscious.
When we suffer trauma in childhood, or lack of love as I prefer to call it, we repress the painful part away out of conscious awareness. Repressed trauma can be seen as part of an unfinished sequence. The child is hurt at the level of sensation and their natural reaction is to cry or throw a tantrum, but for various reasons are not allowed to express that hurt. The pain of not being loved or listened to becomes trapped in the mind/body.
The repression of pain is not a benign force – it is not an out of sight therefore out of mind type of action. It destabilises the brain to such an extent that it is the cause of most mental disorders, including depression, anxiety, addictions, relationship problems and many others. (once again, I will refer the reader to the Adverse Childhood Experience research and also Panksepp/Biven ‘The Archaeology of Mind’).
The aim of primal therapy is to take the person back to the original scene, make contact with the original pain, and then release the pain. This release occurs through very deep crying, and not from pure screaming, as many You-tube videos would have us believe.
The sequence of inflicting the trauma/feeling the grief, is now complete despite the fact there may have been decades between the two actions.
In the medicare system operating in Australia, a mental health patient is only insured for twelve sessions per annum with a psychologist, and in the movies they would have us believe one good blow-up and crying session within a family makes it happy ever after. The sad truth is that many of us suffer so much from lack of love that it takes hundreds of re-livings to drain the deep well of grief.So primal therapy does not strictly retraumatise by adding more trauma; it deals with trauma already in the system. When it is relived and removed the body/mind will normalise. For this reason, any therapy that does not remove repressed trauma cannot be curative, despite some trauma therapists (Levine, van der Kolk) saying that revisiting is all that is required. Revisiting does not remove the trauma – only reliving it does.
Should I be worried you don’t have a medical degree?
I could study to be a professor of psychiatry and psychology and still have no way of knowing how to start a person on his feeling track, and to keep them on track for the course of their therapy. I studied psychology for several years and eventually gave up. Once a person undergoes Janovian primal therapy, most of what they learn in psychology is meaningless. For example, does psychology really understand why people kill themselves, does anybody in psychology understand the causes and cures of depression? Do they understand why we have wars, and why the divorce rate is so high? In Australia we have discussions on domestic violence, and the single mother syndrome is becoming a national disgrace. Neither psychology nor psychiatry seem to have the answers.
The answer to all the above lies in the understanding of the three levels of consciousness, and that our behaviours as humans are driven by our sensations. Ask a psychologist or psychiatrist what the three levels of consciousness are and see what answer you get. It is not part of their learning or understanding. The power for humans to act with love or with evil depends on the type of imprinting that occurs within the brainstem sensations.
As I have said the study of psychology was meaningless. In contrast, undergoing primal therapy, was and still continues to be a very rich and rewarding experience. My own life makes sense and I understand why other people act the way they do. I no longer suffer from suicidal depression and anxiety because I have eliminated the cause. All my psychiatrist could offer me was medication that numbed my feelings, when in fact we are first and foremost sensing/feeling beings. That is how we evolved. Undergoing primal therapy has returned my body/mind to a sensing/feeling state of being.
Learning to be a psychologist or psychiatrist is almost entirely an intellectual pursuit. In contrast learning to be a Janovian primal therapist requires one to explore the three levels of their own consciousness, which is a very intense journey into the feelings and sensations. A psychologist opens a book and gains their required knowledge from the printed word, while a primal therapist opens their mind and gains the knowledge contained in feeling and sensation. There is no comparison between the two.
I would like to have been officially recognised within the mental health industry for my efforts in undergoing the therapy, and then researching and writing books on the subject. After twenty years of dedicated work, I feel that my knowledge in the area of feelings and sensations would be somewhere around the PhD level - if it was a university course.
However, at this time in the evolution of mental health, Janovian primal therapy and the three levels of consciousness are still vague concepts waiting to be discovered and proven by science. Despite the setbacks I suffer because of non-recognition, I find it very exciting to be at the forefront of a discovery that will profoundly change the way we as humans behave towards others, and also how we treat the planet that is our home.
I also find it deeply rewarding to be helping others on the journey to human sanity.