Understanding Janovian Primal Therapy

Arthur Janov was the discoverer of Primal Therapy around 1970. His first book, The Primal Scream, sold over a million copies and started to transform the way we looked at mental health. He has since written many more books on the subject.

This transformation in the way we see and treat mental health has stalled over the years, and from my observations there are several main reasons for this phenomenon.

The current psych industry is very much intellectually based, in that the pre-frontal cortex is seen as the only mode of intelligence and reasoning. However Primal therapy involves opening up to the feelings and sensations, which combine to form a very powerful intelligence of their own. This intelligence is not expressed as language, but through bodily sensations and feelings. This knowledge can only be experienced personally – it cannot be disseminated through lectures or writings in books.

The overuse of pre-frontal cortex intelligence at the expense of sensations and feelings is the sole reason the human species is in such a mess.

Janovian Primal Therapy has opened me up to my own previously repressed sensations and feelings, and this has transformed my life. Arthur Janov and others who undergo the therapy have very few avenues to make the intellectual community understand that sensations and feelings are more important then the intellect in the way we live as humans. Even the scientific research that could point the way is being interpreted and acted upon from the intellectual view only.

Another factor that is stalling the emergence of Primal Theory and Therapy and the three levels of mind is that in the early days of the therapy results were not all that good or consistent. Also people who were never trained in the therapy practised it on others, sometimes with disastrous results. Even today there are many therapists around the world trying to practise Primal Therapy from what they read in books. This approach is not very successful because the therapist has not uncovered their own primal pain, and so cannot take others on that journey.

Unfortunately a lot of the early bad press, some of it warranted at the time, still lives on in the bowels of the internet. People still have access to this (mostly false) information, and it is having some influence on holding back JPT in taking its rightful place as the cornerstone in understanding the human condition.

The therapy in 2015 is much more refined and precise, and much of the brain research occurring today would support Primal Theory if it was possible for the intellectuals to interpret their research in a different way. How can a brain scientist interpret any findings in terms of sensations and feelings as being the powerful driver of brain processes, when all their knowledge and teachings are centred on the intellect.

Over the years Janov’s work has been much maligned  because of his own personal character, and also the way he has been perceived to guard his knowledge. Janov’s character has very little to do with his concepts of Primal Theory and Therapy, and the two should be separated when anyone is trying to understand the theory and therapy.

The concept of the three levels of mind, with the sensations being the strongest and most influential in the way humans function, will eventually have to come to the fore – it is how the brain works.

Future blogs will discuss the implications of how important it is to understand the human brain from the three different levels of functioning.

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