Primal Therapy: Some Points Of View
Experienced after his “childhood madhouse” and after psychology studies at first-class universities and a doctorate, Art Janov treated patients in the psychotherapy world with a critical eye. "It was a painstaking work, observing patients and then trying to figure out, being careful not to contradict neurologic science”.
Incidentally, Raphael Ortiz, famous for demolishing Steinway Grand pianos, 1967, had provoked startling psychological reactions at his activities as a director and destruction artist. The consequences of these provocations would prove to have revolutionary consequences, when one of the spectators to Ortiz's N.Y.-Performance, met Art Janov in Palm Springs. During group therapy, AJ succeeded in stimulating / encouraging "Denny" to put himself in / spark a condition that meant he re-lived a repressed pain. Primal Therapy was born. AJ had discovered / revealed survival technique developed by evolution; repressing pain at the price of inhibited feelings.
AJ succeeded, in 1970, with his book "The Primal Scream", brilliantly in a couple of aspects. He became overnight The Superstar within psychotherapy and he became financially independent. The main reason was that he presented/promised a quick fix for most mental problems. This happened at a time, when we, in any case, within the West-oriented world screamed for liberation and desire for happiness. Among those days abundant flora of gurus who marketed tempting/seductive physical and mental liberations, AJ conquered a leadership position which lasted a decade. Patients / we flocked to LA / Santa Monica with high expectations. Exciting, financially well-off, well-known neurotics searched the charismatic AJ whose evolutionary narratives gave hopes which surpassed all the poetry Hollywood's and others film studios were mighty. Ingmar Bergman also was impressed and inspired.
The need for psychotherapy treatment for the past 50 years has grown dramatically but the curative results have not been achieved/materialized. Repeated treatments of symptoms are unfortunately the most common. To cure, which initially looked possible, through The Primal Therapy appearance, has proved to be an extremely complicated process. A true cure is constantly influenced by economic, social, physiological, psychological and cultural factors. The complex process limits the ability, in each case, for the common man, to create sustainable conditions for the lengthy individual treatment process, which is necessary. Society, the capitalist part, like its counterparts, is impatient and requires instant results. This fact has gradually pushed the world's prescription writing shrinks in the hands of the pharmaceutical industry. It dominates, for instance through the DSM-5, all treatment which continues to build on the evolution pain repression.
After many years of hard work, successes and disappointments in private life which include difficulty in getting the attention for the Primal Therapy in academia, then AJ magically retains his basic attitude to appear as a humble guide in his therapy. He considers patients, ultimately, have all the knowledge and answers in themselves. No smart intellectual conversations on a psychologist’s couch can release deep emotions. The Primal Principle explains nature's instinctive protection, by repression, of fetuses and newborns from the unbearable pain caused by physiological, emotional and chemical damage / abuse. To remove this, over millions of years, developed protection requires more resources, time and cross-fertilizing treatments than a pure, isolated development in Primal Therapy is able to grasp. AJ has wisely recognized that. He promises no quick results, on the contrary, he speaks now of decades. However, the more he writes about his discovery, since 50 years, the more persuasive he is about its validity. By far the best solution is love, touch, and attention from the moment of conception!
AJ came from a modest background, "Russian peasants," and did thanks to the US Navy an academic class trip, which in 1970 additionally meant financial independence. This gave access to the good life / la douceur de Vivre with access to luxury and prestige in both Californian and French establishments. In other words light years away from the socialism that AJ refers to when he emotionally describes the society where primal therapy would be better able to function and become every man's cure. During most of his life, AJ has lived an intelligent and hardworking / neurotic life that consisted of treatments of mental illnesses and to write readable books about them. His focus on developing and explaining primal therapy for 50 years has been going on in a privileged bubble and it has fascinated many of us. The reason is that we are all part of a psychological and physiological process with continuous, more or less, extensive crises where our childhood, maturity, and old age are playing us different tricks depending on finances, family situation, health, sociology and culture.
AJ's discovered the Primal Principle and he taught/trained us through his skilled descriptions/narratives of how repressed pain works. His efforts we have internalized through own experiences, and made it possible to interpret the world in a new, more transparent/less neurotic way. In my own case, it has been a long journey. A process, which for 40 years has meant/included repeated readings and studies of Ida Rolf, Alice Miller, and Simone de Beauvoir. These three giants having filled gaps in Primal Therapy by going outside the psychological framework without for that reason having lost focus on the whole. Ida Rolf's physiotherapy, which was directly linked to my success with Primal therapy, have been continuously improved and is now internationally established. Alice Miller's revealing about how religion and family cause and conserves mental defects and conditions, are vital truths to consider whether a primal therapy treatment may be successful.
Regarding Simone de Beauvoir, she gives in her book "On Old Age” / “La vieillesse" a historical, social, cultural and political picture of society's injustices from birth to death. She mixes her own reflections on the thoughts and experiences of great thinkers and writers. A brilliant compilation, the same age as "The Primal Scream”. SdB despairs of durable solutions for most, except for the few privileged who like AJ can retain their business, health, finance / independence and appreciation unto death. And this despite / because of? that AJ has told us about his lifelong suffering due to a degrading treatment by his parents.
Thank you for your letter.
How astute and insightful! It is a great description of our work, so thank you for your effort.
Dr. Arthur Janov