Interview with Vivian Janov Part one

Both Daniel and Vicki sent me numerous articles and interviews with Vivian with a suggestion to post. I am grateful for their idea and thought this would be a good start. The interviewer was Bill Van Doren who edited our newsletter. Gretchen

BILL – I wanted to ask you what is it you do around here, because most people see you for the initial interview and you’re not that visible in the therapy process afterwards.

VIVIAN –  That’s true. Probably the greatest part of what I do is the interviewing. I Interview those people who want therapy, as well as those who have been in therapy six months to a year or more and want to talk about their progress. I also see people who just want to talk  about things instead of having a feeling session with a therapist. Otherwise, I just work on the whole patient intake process, handling the applications and helping to make judgments about whom to accept. There are also many facets of the administration I get involved with, helping plan everything concerned with the institute.

BILL – Is it painful to interview prospective patients who you know just aren’t going to be accepted?m

VIVIAN – Yes, that is very bad sometimes, when I’m convinced, for example, that a person is too fragile and too much in need of hospital care. I know that what they need ultimately is Primal Therapy, even though at the moment they come to be interviewed they can’t handle it. And they feel hopeless. I really worry about what’s going to happen to them.

BILL – Are your standards changing, as far as whom you will accept?

VIVIAN – Yes, I think they’ve changed over the years. I think that in the past we excluded a lot more people than we do now, because experience showed us that a lot of people that we took a chance on – and who took a chance on us, succeeded. I can think of a few cases where I actually told people, “This is going to be a gamble, because in our opinion the therapy might work for you and it might not. It’s a fifty-fifty chance. Are you willing?” And in most cases where we made that deal, the people did wonderfully. I t amazed me.

BILL –  Is it because they were so close to their pain, do you think?

VIVIAN – Yes, and also because they were able to use some hidden strengths.

BILL –  Do you have any idea about what makes the therapy work when it works and what makes it not work when it doesn’t?

VIVIAN – I think it works best when people are in a crisis situation. The crisis could be anything from a divorce, to a death in the family, to a sudden realization  that they are just not the person that they want to be.  Just having read The Primal Scream can create a crisis for a lot of people. It gives them a gut-ache for two weeks, and they know that someone has pushed the main button. 

BILL – And when people don’t make it, is it because they’re in a dead place with nothing going on?

VIVIAN – When people don’t make it? I’m not sure why people don’t make it. There aren’t that many don’t make it, really. I think that everyone in varying degrees does make it. The real question is why does someone make it in a big way, and why does someone make it in  a smaller way? I’m not sure, I think it has a lot to do with the original wounds. I mean we don’t all start at the same place. Everyone comes to this therapy in a very different place. There used to be a sort of magical thought that all you had to do was put your body in the Primal Institute and the miracle would happen. But the bodies vary.  And a body that has an extreme amount of torture is starting in a different place than someone who has a medium neurotic life. 

BILL –  So the differences wouldn’t be accounted for by, let’s say, what a person does when he gets up off the floor? 

VIVIAN – How you handle your present life is very important. Someone who by habit, whatever training, has decided that the world owes him a living or that things will sort of happen no matter whether he makes an effort of not – those people aren’t too successful.

BILL –  I mean it’s not just a matter of feeling is it?

VIVIAN – No, not at all. I think that that’s an early Primal myth. I think we all thought that at the very beginning.  The early Primal patients thought, well, feelings will do everything, as I said before, just put your body in the hands of a Primal therapist and nature will take its course. Which is true to some degree, but you have to use the feelings. You have to put your life together. The feelings put some of the pieces of your life together through insight and through connecting why you act in your worst interest now. The feelings help to correct that, but then you’ve got to take the ball and run with it. You’ve got to make your life something worthwhile based on what you know about yourself.   

BILL – Do you have an idea what cure means, if it means anything?

VIVIAN – Yes, I  have a very good idea of what cure means. I think that what the Primal Institute means by cure, what Primal Therapy affords as a cure  is the ability to take care of the crazy, tense, unreal feelings that you have and translate them into real feelings, whether they are old or new. That’s the cure, to take your crazy feelings and behavior and not act them out, but feel what is under them and always have the ability to do that. So the cure is a constant clearing-house of tension and craziness. I keep on using the word “crazy” and I think that psychiatrists historically don’t like that word or all the jargon that people use, but I think that crazy is a good word. I think it doesn’t just mean you’re in a state mental hospital. I think that a lot of very so-called “put together” people do destructive things in their lives.  So I’m talking about that kind of crazy behavior, I don’t mean the kind where you’re locked up somewhere.

BILL – So, crazy means that you’re being driven by an old feeling you haven’t connected.

VIVIAN – Right, and just ruining what could be a perfectly good life by being hung up in the past.

BILL – Do you feel that there’s too much emphasis on theory in the Primal literature these days, the first line,  second line, third line kind of thing?

VIVIAN –  I probably think that more than most people around here. However, I never can put down the value of understanding. I think there are different parts of the therapy appeal to different people. You know, I’ll interview somebody, and I’ll say, “Did you read Primal Man?” And they’ll say, “Oh, just fascinating. I loved reading about the hypothalamus and how the kneebone connects to the thighbone.” But then I’ll interview somebody who’ll say, “I just couldn’t understand a word of that. I’m interested in reading about the case where the guy had the exact same problem I have and how he got through it. That’s what I want to hear about, the practical thing.”  I’m sort of in the middle somewhere, I value the theory because it allows us to move ahead. Otherwise, you know, it’s like tennis – you can hit the ball for ten years but if you don’t learn the correct stroke behind it you will never be a good player.  And if therapists don’t know the correct strokes behind what they’re doing, then they’ll never be able to be innovative therapists. They’ll just be hitting an odd ball here and there.

BILL – So you’re saying really there are just other areas  of the therapy that you would like to see written about in addition to the theory, to kind of balance it out.

VIVIAN – Yes, possibly.

BILL – You interview people who are leaving the Institute, right, who are going off to Saskatchewan or something like that. Is there a common denominator about them? What have they done that enables them to leave the institute?

VIVIAN – I think they leave for various reasons. They should leave because they have learned the process and can do it on their own or with a buddy, a friend, husband, whatever. That is something a lot of people don’t understand. I always explain it to new people, that this is a therapeutic situation but what you are really doing is learning a new way of living. It is like a process of life that you’ve never experienced. No-one in the world who is unaware of Primal thinks, “I will cry about that situation and feel why it hurts me so deeply, from earliest times.”

Most people don’t think that way. Most people think, “I will swallow the pain,” either literally or figuratively; just swallow and turn the other cheek, or literally swallow two valiums. What people have to learn is this new process that doesn’t swallow pain, that expresses pain. I’m really oversimplifying the whole thing in a way, but I really think that’s the bottom line of Primal Therapy, you’re learning another way of living.  I think internally all Primal people are different from non-Primal people because our way of life is to go to Pain instead  of finding ways to escape it. And that’s what they have to learn to do here. So they’re leaving, I hope, having learned that. 

BILL – Do you interview many people who are hanging on, who are staying longer than they should? 

VIVIAN – Not many. There is a small percentage of people who feel the comfort of the Institute, and are a little bit afraid to be away. And that, you know, is not so unnatural. Because to go back to everyday surroundings, it is probably hard to find a padded room that is sound-proof and someone who is going to understand when you are pounding on the wall. . 

In fact my mother had sent me something funny – clipping from The New York Times. It’s just a little squib. It’s about a man who is walking down Fifth Avenue and suddenly he starts screaming which is not so unusual in New York and everyone turns around and says, “What’s wrong?”  I don’t imagine New Yorkers would do that, but the article says they do. And they seem upset and want to cart him away or something, so he turns to everyone and says, “What’s the matter with all of you? Haven’t you ever heard of a Primal scream?” So maybe our influence is spreading farther than we think. 

BILL – One hears the term, every now and then. You can see the influence. Do you think that the therapy in the future will become widely accepted or is that an imponderable thing?

VIVIAN – I’ve thought about it a lot. I remember the original person who read the first draft of The Primal Scream, who worked for a book company and who later became a patient. He read the book as a reader for a publisher. He was “turned on” immediately. He left the company in New York, and came to Los Angeles, had the therapy and felt as strongly about it in the therapy as he had after reading the manuscript. And I remember him saying, “Art, someday Primal will  be a household word.” But at that time we felt so isolated from the regular community and the psychiatric community I couldn’t even imagine that ever happening.

BILL – Talking about the early days, you’re known as co-developer of the therapy. What was your role? Is there a particular niche or specialization that you had during those days when the whole thing was developed?

VIVIAN – Well, I sort of got drafted into it. The first thing that ever happened, of course, is that Art brought home that tape. I was working as a counselor, a sort of therapist with young people, and Art had this practice with regular neurotic people. He had this group, and one of the boys that I saw as a counselor was in college. He started attending Art’s adult group, and he is the person spoken about in The Primal Scream, whom Art called Danny and who talked about Ortiz, and that thing. So Art taped all his sessions, because that was the way he worked. He always took notes, he always recorded everything as a matter of course. And so he came home and said, “Something extraordinary happened tonight”, and he played it to me. My reaction –  partly because it was so extraordinary, was to cry. And I was not used to crying.  I said, “That’s unbelievable.” I was not involved with those people yet , as a group. I didn’t work with them.  Then Art began developing the theory.  I  began listening to tapes with him, and I began to feel my feelings because they were being pushed. One night something happened between us, and I started crying, and Art was sitting with me. When I got through he said, “I think you should come to some of the meetings with these people who have been having Primals. 

BILL – Was he calling them Primals already?

VIVIAN – I don’t think so. That name did get started soon, but maybe not right then. What they would do is they would all have the experience of having a Primal, either with him or in the group which was very tiny, you know. It seems funny now. Then, because they were so perplexed and excited about what was happening to them and the other people, and they were comparing and talking and there was so  much going on, Art began having theoretical discussions with them. “What do you think happened to you today?” Or, “What do you think is happening to so and so?”  And he said to me, “You’d better come because it’s starting to happen to you.” Well, when it started happening to me, I started trying to understand it from my point of view and theirs.  What I began to realize was that some of those early patients were being too much influenced by each other and by Arthur, intellectually. And I just felt like they were getting a little mystical about it. They were starting to say things like, “That’s the death  Primal; that’s the death of the Pain.”  And they sort of had the idea there were three Primals. And they had names for them. I mean they were groping around. And naturally so, because no-one knew anything. Months after the first Primal, I began attending some of these discussion groups, and in the middle of one somebody really broke down and started screaming “Mama,” very soulfully, and for the first time I broke down in that group – which sort of changed my position from “big shot therapist” to just one of them. And that, by the way, is one of the hallmarks of Primal Therapy – that all therapists are always patients, that makes all of us keep learning, keep changing with the people we deal with.

I guess I had more courage than they did to say to Art, “You’re wrong, there is no death Primal, and here’s what’s really happening.” In fact I have a tape of that which I am proudly preserving in case there is any doubt. (Laughter.) It’s funny, actually. I was just listening to it for the first time in at least five or six years. I’m saying on the tape, “I’m discovering that there’s more than two or three Pains down there, you know it’s like a whole big storehouse, a big ball of Pain with a lot of different labels on the ball that you just have to  keep on hitting.” I said that I visualized it as a ball of Pain with stickpins in it that represented as many scenes, as many Pains as you’ve had in your life, like, “Let me talk, please hold me, don’t spank me,” or whatever. I felt like you had to go to each one of those. 

And while I’m listening to this tape the other day, I hear this scratching in the background, and I realize, as always, that Art was taking notes as I was coming out of this Primal.  I’m coming out of this Primal, but I’m not just feeling. I sort of always tried to figure out what was happening while I was feeling…

BILL – You were theorist and…

VIVIAN – Right, and patient. And a therapist, probably long before I should have been. I don’t know. We had to be therapists because there was no-one else around. So I did some of that by having Art sit for me when I was having my Primals, and then sitting for him when he started feeling and having a lot of ideas also.

BILL – Ideas that came right out of his feelings, right?

VIVIAN – Right, and other people’s feelings too. I don’t think there was ever a meeting or session or anything that Art didn’t take copious notes. In other word, he always has respected the conclusions that people came to as a result of their feelings, and has always tried to make sense of it. He had thousands of scrawled notes. Pages and pages and pages from any event, from anything. From as session, from a meeting, from his own Primals, from my primals. And that’s how The Primal Scream actually got put together. 

BILL – And that’s how it could continually change as it was coming along.

VIVIAN – Exactly. That’s why some things in The Primal Scream may seem different now. But that’s really how it was then. People had this tremendous euphoria from Primalling and believed it would stay. You know, after a very short time they thought, “Well, here I am, one month and I never felt so good in my life.” And they thought, that’s it! I think they were all afraid at the beginning. Everyone was so excited and exhilarated I think they were afraid to burst Art’s balloon by telling him that they were starting to feel bad again after they were supposed to be “cured.”

But because of our relationship, I wasn’t afraid to say, “Hey, this bad feeling just came back and it’s been six months, and I want to scream and cry again.”  And so we all began to realize that it isn’t over that quickly. But my own belief now, you know, is like, so what – every time you do feel you’re one step ahead toward being ok. It’s like an active process. You’re not just talking about something and hoping the talking will help. You are actually changing your body all the time. Something real is happening. You know. sometimes I will interview somebody , and they’ll say. “Not too much has happened.” And then I’ll look at their original complaints  : heavy allergies, sleeplessness, no satisfaction in sex – all body function things. And I’ll say, “How’s your sex life?” “Oh God, it’s so different, it’s so much better.” So you see their body is changing, but emotionally they’re still in turmoil  sometimes, so they don’t realize that they’re changing very much.

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67 Responses to Interview with Vivian Janov Part one

  1. Jo says:

    That was good to read. I could visualise Viv speaking. It affirms my progress and processes.

  2. Yes to all that … Roundly and softly said .. I agreed with all of it ..


    Hasta la Vista, Vivian. Until we meet again.

  4. Karen says:

    Great interview….
    Fly free Vivian you certainly left a legacy and it’s much appreciated it.

  5. Milos says:

    Curious as to when this was. Sounds like mid to late ’70’s?

  6. Daniel says:

    I liked the interview with Vivian very much (When was it?), for content as well as tone. Vivian is honest and easy to understand, and it draws one closer to her almost immediately.
    There are a few points I thought were especially insightful and interesting.

    Cure. Without making too much fuss about it, Vivian creates a new definition for what “cure” is, one that is different from the original Primal definition (a version of which I also personally heard from Barry way back then). Cure is the establishment of a “clearing-house of tension and craziness”. In other words, it’s a process to be internalised rather than a final state to achieve. Particularly interesting, and to my mind also refreshing, is her adoption of the word “crazy” as a good description of that part of the mind-body which thinks, feels and behaves in mad and destructive ways. By destruction I take it she means whatever sabotages the true-self and therefore it doesn’t necessarily include symptoms, which actually may be something closer to the personal truth than the non-symptom. That is why I think Vivian stresses that being “put together” may mean little. Falling apart may be more sincere than being put together.

    By the way, to get to the “cure”, Vivian intimates, one must be active in therapy. If one just goes to sessions feeling “things will sort of happen no matter whether he makes an effort or not”, chances are he will not get to that cure, he will not really be internalising the process. Feelings can enrich and guide life but never to replace it.

    Theory. Vivian would like to see more approachable Primal case material published, but still recognises the importance of theory which “allows us to move ahead”, makes therapists innovative and knowing what they’re doing. Her tennis metaphor about learning the correct stroke so a player can do more than just hit “an odd ball here and there”, is a good one. Although I very much agree with the importance of theory, my own experience is that generally there are wonderful therapists who are quite bad at theory but have very good clinical instincts, and vice versa – good theoreticians who are not that good conducting actual therapy.
    In that regard, Vivian does not belittle insight as cerebral but considers it part and parcel of what connected feelings brings about. It is not just the expenditure or exorcism of Pain but new or renewed connections that are created in the mind.

    False self. From the very beginning Vivian acts as a reality-test on the Primal experiment Art and his patients are conducting. Very impressively she grasps how what the therapist sees may be a false part of the patient trying to please the therapist, for example in not telling him that contrary to the therapist’s theory and hope, the bad feeling has returned. In other words, seeming to do “good” in therapy may not necessarily be evidence of a genuine curative process taking hold. This is a very difficult problem for all therapists and in despite all the excitement at the beginning Vivian is not blind to the difficulties nor deluded by early successes. Intellectually, she is very honest.

    Genius and obsession. Vivian didn’t mean to make this point, but I think she makes it anyway. Genius has something to do with obsession. The way she describes how Art was obsessively recording and writing “pages and pages and pages from any event, from anything…” (note how she repeats the word “pages” three times). I think all genius is obsessively mediated. To put it slightly differently, obsession has a big part in genius and all genius people are obsessive in their subject matter.

    A closing question. Vivian describes how she discovers “there’s more than two or three Pains down there… a big ball of Pain with a lot of different labels on the ball that you just have to keep hitting”. In other words, does Vivian think there is only a single neurosis with many manifestations? Or, is it possible there are more than a single neurosis, each creating its own manifestation?

  7. Bill Jones says:

    The interview of Vivian by Bill Van Doren was published in volume four, number two of the Journal of Primal Therapy of Fall 1977.
    I know because I am a hoarder and have the Journals of Primal Therapy from the 1970’s. Being a hoarder is a burden to me, but every once in awhile, like now, I get a benefit from it. The full interview is 13 pages and I see the blog entry is called Part 1. Maybe the rest will be put on the blog later.
    Will there be a memorial gathering for Vivian as there was for Art? I assume it would be for those who were very close to her.

    • Sylvia says:

      Thank you for letting us know when and where the interview with Vivian was posted. I hoard too and looked through the Newsletters and thought I missed placed the interview copy. On a positive note, while looking through boxes I cleaned my closet and read some of the Newsletters that are still very interesting.

  8. Jo says:

    Today it is a year since my beautiful daughter Fay died.
    I found a poem by Edna St Vincent Millay, entitled
    “Time does not bring relief; you all have lied”.
    I have taken from it what means something to me, and changed the gender, because she was writing about her husband.

    There are a hundred places where I fear   
    To go,—so with her memory they brim.   
    And entering with relief some quiet place   
    Where never fell her foot or shone her face   
    I say, “There is no memory of her here!”   
    And so stand stricken, so remembering her.

    • Jo, I wanted to acknowledge this nice poem you presented. Sorry you have had to endure the loss of a child before her natural time. You seem to have withstood it quietly and stoically as far as this blog is concerned, for it is the first time I read this.
      Even after three and a half years I still have plenty of stricken moments of sorely missing dad.
      If I could continue to complete the relationship I had with him I would simply tell dad, “I think you’re a wonderful and amazing guy, dad. A special treat and a blessing.” over and over again until he’d grow sick of hearing it and reply, “OK! OK! I heard it, now go do something else.”

    • Daniel says:

      Wow Jo, so sorry to hear of your loss.

  9. Jo says:

    Thank you Guru. There was part of me that didn’t believe she was ill with cancer, let alone when it accelerated rapidly in the last 2 months. I was numbed out for weeks when she died. Words have failed me. I can totally believe your stricken moments of missing your Dad

  10. Daniel says:

    For the life of me, I will never understand the American obsession with abortions

  11. Renee says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more. Those American women are so obsessed with controlling their bodies and their lives. Such entitlement!

    • Daniel says:

      Hi Renée,
      How have you been? I hope you’re well and happy and that the angry and cynical air of your comment is just because you didn’t get the meaning of mine. The women who wish to abort just want to terminate their own pregnancies and so definitely not obsessive about it. Right or wrong, they feel it a necessity. On the other hand, some of those opposing abortions are most definitely obsessive about it. It is them I was referring to.

      I wrote the comment after reading about the ordeals girls and women and doctors have had to go through since the US supreme court’s ruling, and about the harsh laws some states and some political candidates are promoting. From afar it seems that in trying to please their political base for many years Republican candidates were competing each other, as some of them do now, who will come up with the most sadistic and vindictive legislation against women having an abortion, and now the book of statutes in many states are strewn with draconian laws that immediately went into effect when the protection Roe v. Wade supplied was removed.

      My own opinion about abortions is not that clear cut in that I do think there is a living person there – anyone who has ever seen an ultrasound or felt a fetus moving inside cannot but feel that way. However, in order to protect women’s health and being I think, as most of the modern world does, that abortions should be legal.

      • Renee says:

        Thanks for clarifying, Daniel. It sounds like you meant something different to what you had originally written: “I will never understand the American obsession with abortions.” It seems that you have an understanding of some right-wing Americans’ obsession with denying the right to abortion. Got it.

  12. Daniel says:

    In the midst of the UK economic policy debacle in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer (the UK equivalent of the US secretary of the treasury) was fired only 38 days after being appointed, an interesting fact emerged:

    During the speech in which he or she submits the Government budget to parliament the Chancellor of the Exchequer is the only member of the House of Commons allowed to have a drink.

  13. Some weeks ago I was speaking with a long-time Primal buddy about the ‘Primal Therapy the Musical’ event that Art Janov held around 2016-2017. I didn’t personally attend the event, but I remembered seeing some photos of the gathering and how there were a large number of young people there.
    As I explained to my buddy, I do wonder if this musical event may have been a missed opportunity to gather all these young people to discuss the future of Primal and how to best organize the movement in order to preserve its mission. This would seem especially important now that Art, Vivian, and France are gone. Barry and Gretchen can’t stay around forever, either.
    It seemed at the time of the musical Art was trying to emphasize the scientific evidence supporting Primal in order to reach a broader acceptance among his peers. Personally, I saw more of an urgent situation where many Primal participants would simply scurry about their individual lives with no cohesive organizational mission ensuring the therapy stays around in the decades ahead.
    As may be true for many if not most others, I’m very limited in what I can personally do for a situation like this. I just see from observations how the need for therapy seems more and more dire with each passing year in the wider world while the Primal movement itself grows smaller and smaller, which is a sad shame to witness.

  14. I’m not sure whether to change my lifestyle habits to ensure longevity. I always thought I was living a reasonably healthy lifestyle as a vegetarian, but maybe longevity secrets remain that I don’t understand?

    “World’s Dirtiest Man dies at age 94, a few months after local villagers forced him to clean up after his not showering for more than 60 years.”

    “His favorite food was rotten porcupine. He smoked animal feces from a pipe and drank from a rusty oil can.”

    • A lifespan of 94 is not too bad for a male, huh? Rusty oil cans for drinking, feces filled smoking pipes, and not showering for 60 years somehow exhibited superiority over an American health care system spending $12,000 per capita and only attaining a life expectancy of 78 years.

      Commenters on the article above said this strange man must have built a strong immune system being exposed to the harsh elements, only to have it destroyed when forced to clean up. Villagers should have left the poor guys alone, it seems. He might have made it to 100!

  15. A concerned citizen wrote to me and asked if France Janov is deceased, as my passage ‘….now that Art, Vivian, and France are gone’ seemed to imply all are deceased.
    As far as I know, France is still alive but retired.
    My definition of ‘gone’ simply included all those no longer in physical proximity of Primal clinics, living or deceased.

    • Daniel says:

      So, Guru, do you feel the Primal community has raised a white flag? I think it takes some doing to spread Primal thinking and therapy around in a way that would have preserved it, and as far as I know such steps were never taken. Perhaps in the future someone will pick up were past founders have left off. After all, the books are there for anyone to discover and perhaps breath new life into it.

      In general, with the ascent of better medications and ‘evidence-based’ approaches, which was then demanded by insurance companies, therapies based on depth psychology began to decline in popularity and stature.

      My feeling is the need for therapeutic conversation and interaction and understanding will never cease, some people will always dmand more than those new types of therapy can offer, and so there will always be a place for it.

      • Recently I engaged in a piece of work showing up child abuses inside Adoption and the survey was 304 respondents….It showed shocking child abuse results .. Poetically I’ll write this at this juncture : “At the beginning was the end and at the end was the beginning …..” So many things repeat and repeat and repeat.. Pain does that .. So does resolution and grief if one is lucky enough to feel it ..I am an Adoptee working class primaller that lives in Birmingham UK ..Why the poetic line though ? I’ll try and say why over this text .. Bear with me though … I do feel the sincere heavy loss of Art and Vivian and in one sense the future of Primal Therapy ..

        We all start with how we were formed … How the story of “us” was formed…Of course the 1st time around it is not felt ..I noted by the way, how the (primal) “cure” was modified by Viv Janov to realise that only by maintenance of the story-prisms of our pain, could we clear it each time it was newly reactivated back …Life calling to life as it should have been felt .. “Danny” though aided everyone with a simple twist of truth … Mommy was called for (she had not been there enough) and that unmet need when felt, changed into mournable grief …. We are all so far down the line of losing humanity that we needed like Danny to be taught how to grieve over hurts no-one saw and felt for us, inside a missing empathic moments or years of no parental/carer rescue : “I am here for you” ….(no-one was)

        I think Primal Therapy was and is way over-branded as a therapy. It did not need to be selectively practiced as it was and so jealously over-branded.. It created it’s own lack of poorly shared future in one sense with that attitude.. Danny was the moment a thematic insight became merged with an idea of practice which Art locked into a brand .. “Speak the unmet need and connect to it’s emotional base of feelings” …”Oh mommy I so needed you … ”

        And thus the butterfly in Danny became the cry of the whirling DNA hurricane..

        Inside that theme was the (common therapeutic) notion of mourn-ability over loss of love .. Loss of care .. A trail suggesting more .. Loss of care across years, and years to titrate into mournable and gradual connection .. Even birth is mournable as loss of the right actions or right body reactions. LOSS .. All is mournable material when slowly emerging via the body-feeling-memory ..”Mommy I have lost so much of your care and love even at the beginning ”

        Always, always, always, is a missing action or reactions to the child. A loss to be felt and an awful lot of it ..Bless us all…What did Danny and Art get right ? They realised one has to let the pain and unmet need speak out as if the parents are right there !!

        In that moment loss is engaged .. Truth .. Pain and tears. The therapist triggers the phantom-moment of the missing empathic parent. “It’s okay now to feel and speak to mommy and daddy ..” The one thing that can be changed !! … You are given back “empathy” … Then you learn that over time … Standing there inside yourself like a back-shadow of care letting a child inside cry out and speak to family ghosts .. How mournful it is .. How lost … How abidingly real ..

        I have many ghosts I still speak to… Four dead parents and many others missed and ruined connections because of Adoption ..I even hold my inner-child’s hand sometimes so powerful is my inner visual core ..

        Coming into life was an end to “feelingful life” for many of us until we found the Danny-switch .. Danny the DNA child that finally screamed for life …. Mommy Viv and Daddy Art have gone .. What is left at the end is either ends or new beginnings… I am too old to assist now but I still fight for other Adoptee children to help them see mourning is the way with past pain .. Some of them are Dannies and have DNA working for them .. Always not enough though ..I wish it were different ..

        Primal Therapy was always a therapy of empathy of feelings with a mission to connect up and grieve lost love and care in all it’s forms .. Grief and loss is part of the stars when you feel it enough. Art was using the same techniques at the end of his practice life as he did on Danny .. Examine it .. He just relaxed his approach better .. trusted the patient’s pace ..I wish he had aided a patient organization better leaving it an income stream from his books and millions. He did not … Neither did he bridge better to other therapists as well as he should have. But bless you all anyway ..

      • Daniel, I can only tell you subjectively as a patient that I did a WHOLE BUNCH of heartbroken crying when I was at Vivian’s place. I knew I was slowly going to the places I needed to go, bit by bit.
        Art once wrote in The New Primal Scream about the amoeba being injected with ink of India as an analogous representation of Primal pain, crippling the amoeba’s movement. Once the ink was removed the amoeba would smoothly glide about once more. That India ink must be removed in a carefully customized way tailored to the client’s unique lingual personality and circumstances through reflective listening by the therapist (I’m sure you already recognize this).
        My point being that the therapy was perfect for my needs and my intensive therapist had an easy time making me cry. He eventually had to tell me “crying is supposed to be therapeutic, not an aerobic exercise”. Even though I laughed at this comment, I always viewed every little bit of crying I did as being a bit of progress towards a personal destination I needed to go, even if in miniscule, imperceptible steps.

        So yeah, despite my occasional misgivings towards Art it’s still the best therapy for me overall. I’d hate to see that option shrivel away from the public.

        I do hope you’re right that there will always be a few dissenting voices demanding more than what standard therapies can offer, thus keeping the Primal mission alive over the long term.

  16. Paul was mentioning above how Primal was zealously over-branded as a therapy. I have a lot of mixed feelings and uncertainty over this topic to develop a firm opinion there. In some ways, I can see where that would have been unfair to Art for intellectual property reasons. A good example would be a pharmaceutical company introducing a new psych medication. Should the company immediately give up the patent for the greater good despite the personal effort and expense researching and distributing the drug? If taking such intellectual property away from the drug company seems unfair, then why would taking away the intellectual work and research developing Primal therapy techniques be taken away from Art and any of his associates? Everybody has to make a living and thrive in this unforgiving capitalist society, I think.

    Having said all that, though, the need for therapy is clearly immense and some of the zealous guarding of intellectual property is likely rooted in the idea that private property ownership beyond basics for everyday living is acceptable and good. Far-left socialists would be better than I am to point out the flaws of such a premise, with some of those socialists believing private property should be banned outright.

    Big topic. Too big for my single little brain.

    • Sylvia says:

      I think Art’s motive for branding the therapy as Primal was to distinguish it from copy-cat mock-primal therapies when therapists untrained in the power of feelings set out to get their patients to feel by screaming and other such extremes including re-living birth scenes out of orderly sequence. A lot of harm was done by unknowing therapists and quasi-therapists.

      I don’t think it was a case of intellectual property but more of a safe keeping of the techniques if used wrongly could be dangerous. But I agree with Paul Brian Tovey, that at some point there were other therapists genuinely wanting to know more, and felt shut out, that I’ve read about on some primal groups. But then again, what more can we expect from one soul who gave what he had, to help so many, despite a flaw of not sharing sooner than when at last the Legacy program was released.

      • How about a mixture of the two motives? Both altruism in wanting to protect others from danger and self-preservation by protecting intellectual property which took so much effort to research?

        Responding as an aside to your last sentence, Art was by his own observation a soulless individual, as evidenced by his statement clarifying as such in his ‘Imprints’ book. He had no soul no matter how achingly anyone else may have wanted to believe otherwise, I’m afraid.

        • Sylvia says:

          No, I don’t agree about the cost/money aspect, but then only he would know. Ego, maybe. You needn’t be so literal about soul; it is figurative usage.

          • OK, but still strangely paradoxical that a soulless individual would play such a crucial, perhaps even vital, role in a therapeutic approach containing so much ‘soul’ in the metaphorical sense. That’s something I’ll have to continue wrangling with on my own, I suppose.

            • The therapy developed by Art was never patented … Not at all .. It was “branded” and he attempted to get a trademark :”Primal” I think, but failed according to one of his friends I communicated with… I have no doubt that what made the therapy a more specialized psychotherapy was it’s emphasis on feeling feelings in order to grieve unmet needs into resolutions of ability of mourning losses of love/care at any age via re-experience.. There are other psychotherapists (usually private) that can do that and will do that if a patient’s care and pace can allow that….However there are plenty of psychotherapists too without the required skill and experience ..I’ve worked (pro-bono) in NHS Mental Health systems monitoring service delivery and design so I know the score

              Art’s “Primal” label was never placed on the therapy because of mock screaming therapies which happened afterwards … The Primal label came about because of a great releasing scream of pain that some people had when defence systems collapsed and what was laid bare was the “parentally internally murdered self” so to speak ..The “primitive self” of felt truth …. The denied child..

              The remarkable side of Primal therapy was to restore the belief and reality that under all the neurotic compensations lay a form of organically stored truth of unmet needs which could be accessed and given voice and far more : actual re-experience ..Actual resolution ..Loss …Loss of love finally felt and struggled for .. That’s a big journey for many though ..

              The failure of Primal Therapy to expand it’s base better was partly it’s branding and also rigid insistence that it could only be practiced in the US under Art’s gaze ..He never gave lead to an association of patients to form ways to expand the virtues of deep therapy .. I think he feared that .. Quite a few of the therapists which worked under him left him because of his ways and I know them personally too ..We are not left with a well supported org or movement that promotes that grief over childhood unmet need is a practical way to slowly resolve the neurosis and worse that many are left with .. That is a serious “legacy” left to the winds of an unorganised future …..

              I lament that deeply because I have lived with others who are not rich or middle income and deserve hope but alas I do not think it is there enough… I have worked amongst the greatly pained and been there too … Death visited many too soon and I do not forget that ..Most were young people ..

              I am therapy centric for the benefit of others and not myself and have done free support work for many years .. What’s I have seen of some “primal-people” is too much “centricity” on themselves and I do think a social dimension of aiding others has been lacking – otherwise I would have seen a Primal Patient Association as a charity operating ….I remain working class and a member of the Co-op party in the UK …I have done 38 yrs of therapy to connect up grief over monumental losses of family and dignity plus serious child abuses ..

              I lament Primal Therapy’s descent into a lack of better social inclusion for all classes of people . I always will .. Was that partly designed in by default by Art’s personal styles? I have to answer : Yes ..

              • Sylvia says:

                Hello, Paul. I agree that Art labeled the ‘Primal’ brand before any mock-therapy primal type. I was thinking of his desire to patent it to distinguish it from the copy-cats who wanted to gain from the therapeutic success without the needed skills.

                I lament too, the unorganized movement to further the style and care of an effective affordable therapy. That is why so many have tried to do this therapy on their own without the needed support and suffer the pitfalls too many to miss.

                I like to think that those who have been lucky enough to access their past and feel the pull to help others will help one who asks for support to feel feelings. I believe in ‘each one teach one,’ if they are able to. I applaud your work to help those in the NHS mental health system and battle the cognitive CBT approach that lacks deep resolution of pain.

                S 🐇

              • Paul: You raised a lot of solid and interesting arguments, thank you. As I said earlier, I have a lot of personal uncertainty regarding the inclusivity/exclusivity of therapy ‘under Art’s gaze’ as you describe it.
                I’m only familiar with one or two independent Primal-oriented associations away from ‘Janov’s gaze’ or Vivian’s Institute.

                I do remember a long time ago seeing a valuable Primal Psychotherapy Page run by a man named John Spreyer. He had loads of information on various therapists and semi-formal organizations operating on the periphery of Primal, and I did find his website quite useful (keeping in mind this was 20 years ago!). Unfortunately, I think Mr. Spreyer died some years ago and the website is likely defunct now, though maybe it could still be found in the ‘wayback internet archives’ site somewhere.

  17. Art and I once had a conversation about branding actually. It was suggested that it might have been wiser to name the therapy Janovian therapy vs Primal ( meaning relating to the earliest stages of development). I don’t think at the time he was thinking about branding at all but rather about describing what the therapy was about. Later when so many people hung up their Primal therapy shingles and claimed to be trained by him he began to take a different view. I don’t believe he thought people could truly understand the therapy or help others using Primal just by reading the book. This was of course one reason he required that all therapists first go through the program themselves. I do think he felt a certain responsibility and possibly a concern about liability as well. I will say if you wanted to push a button in either Art or Viv all you had to do was bad therapy. I did come to believe that all the warnings about going to untrained therapists claiming to do Primal was a bit of a waste of time as people did it anyway. Art could not and did not control that. They also gave away therapy for free or at reduced costs so that as many as possible could get help from Primal. Lastly I’m not sure about describing Art as soulless but of course there are many definitions for soul and many different beliefs. Gretchen

    • Renee says:

      Interesting post. It reminds of the saying, “the past is never past”……liability concerns (external and internal), therapists who didn’t finish the program before becoming therapists, therapists doing bad therapy, like talking excessively about themselves, being on their phones, falling asleep, lying about falling asleep when confronted, buying gifts for their clients, pitting clients against each other, feeling justified in taking their anger out on their clients, and other subtle and not-so-subtle boundary crossings and abuses of power……sadly, the past is not past. 😥

  18. Uh, hey Renee, I’m going to go out on a limb and surmise you’re referring to unsatisfactory Primal therapists from the past, and that in your view perhaps Gretchen is covering up a bit for this in her post. You mentioned Rick in the past and how you were irritated about it, so my initial thoughts make sense to me from that angle.

    I try to think of how difficult it would be to train new therapists, and how there might only be a comparative few therapists around as opposed to legions of needy patients, leading to a stressfully lopsided patient-to-therapist ratio in Primal. My feeling is that it might be really hard to find a dedicated Primal therapist wanting to do it for a living. Any therapist who walks out the clinic front door in anger or disgust represents a year or more of lost training along with trying to find and train a replacement, so there can be a lot to lose if a slightly deviant therapist is not appeased.

    Maybe Art and crew had to compromise and accept the shortcomings of the more perseverant therapists for fear of the deficient therapists becoming angry, leaving the clinic, and becoming even more severely short-staffed?

    Since this is an intensely ‘human oriented’ therapy along with the usual messiness of human life, there’s that angle to consider as well. Pressing psychotropic medicines in a factory is a much more neat and orderly affair than crowds of messy, chaotic humans trying to collaborate.

    • I should add a disclaimer noting I’ve never been anywhere near a therapist staff meeting ever, so my post above is only uninformed speculation of what’s possibly going on. I could only write out what seemed to make sense to me.

    • Renee says:

      Ugg, you’re overthinking what I said. I was simply giving Gretchen feedback around how I thought what she posted wasn’t just about the past. By the way, I realized another way that “the past is not past” with what she wrote, namely the issue of trying to get therapists who shouldn’t be practicing to actually stop practicing. She seems to be of the mindset that it is not worth the time and energy working on this problem, saying that “people did it anyway”. I haven’t decided yet whether I agree or disagree with her. Interesting, though, that she brought this up.

      • Sylvia says:

        I took Gretchen’s comment differently. I don’t think Art wanted to stop untrained therapists from practicing, maybe he did but there was no way to do that; but he wanted to warn patients to not go to those therapists, but they went anyway. I used to see in every Journal of primal therapy and every newsletter that warning.

        Many got help in other places from therapists who had left the Janov primal therapy.

      • Renee, one issue I’m seeing here is that for a long time you’ve refused to respond to Gretchen in any manner on the blog. I’m not saying or implying you should communicate with her here, for that’s between you and her.
        When I factor in your longstanding approach of silence towards her, only to suddenly provide this feedback to her with no explanation as to why the ‘silent period’ is being broken, the best logical path was to construe your post as a confrontational feedback towards Gretchen. Hence, this contributed to my own conclusion you were referring to deviant Primal therapists under her direction from the past, which you may have still been mad about today.

  19. Daniel, well thank you. Being personally validated is an exceptionally rare treat for me, so I try to savor these tiny morsels whenever I can.

    I don’t want this to look as though I’m teaming up with you against Renee. All I wanted to say was my main point about possible backroom compromises various therapists may have made which we don’t have the slightest clue about.

    Losing a skilled therapist and spending years getting a new one up to speed can be a devastating setback to a small organization, so yeah making generous compromises to prevent such setbacks makes a lot of sense to me.

    It was my long-delayed reaction to Renee being upset about Rick. I can only speak hypothetically, but what if a therapist was a vital emotional lifeline for six clients even though he misbehaved with a seventh? Do you keep your moral principles completely intact by throwing out someone who may have been vital to others? Such tough, unenviably gut-wrenching decisions in my view. (This seems semi-related to the trolley car problem of, do you kill one or a hundred?)

    The fact that people often cry and scream at each other in Primal can really add to the potential staffing fireworks, I imagine.

    • Daniel says:

      I have no plans or desire to team up against anyone, including Renée. Nor will I do so solo. But your comment made sense to me.

      You raise an interesting ethical dilemma for which I do not have a perfect answer. Therefore, I go with the principle of responsibility – that people are responsible for their actions and must live up to the legal, ethical and normative principles that come with their professional role. The fact that innocent people get hurt when correcting the situation is all the more reason why one should be careful to abide by those norms and obligations.

      What was the problem with Rick anyhow?

      • Daniel, I think I do know the answer to this…but since I never really met Rick and only know what was mentioned on the blog, I feel reluctant to say anything further except to say it was discussed a fair bit here a few years ago. Gretchen & Renee could answer things with a lot more certainty, clarity, and bravery than I.

  20. Daniel says:

    I googled for the Rick story up and down the Blog but couldn’t find anything, so perhaps it wasn’t on the blog that Renée voiced her issues about him.

    Regarding what used to be called back then ‘mock therapists’, or in general the fate of PT that you raised at the beginning of this conversation, I’m actually more interested in the bona fide therapists that were trained and then at some point left. Somehow these therapists failed or refused to carry it with them to their new places. It’s as though for some reason PT was able to thrive only within the confines of the PI or Art’s place(s).

    My co-therapist was called Judy. I didn’t see her much but I liked her. She is currently practicing in Winston-Salem, NC. When I looked at her website I was disappointed to find that Primal Therapy is completely absent from her self-description, background, professional experience, stated qualifications, or personal statement. It’s as if the part when she saw me never really existed. I even felt a bit hurt.

    Now, is that something about Judy or is it something about PT? Does Judy feel embarrassed about that part of her professional development, and if so, why? Did PT manage over the years to somehow acquire bad reputation that former therapists want to distance themselves from? Or, is PT felt like some kind of a secret cult, not do be divulged to others?

    Whatever it is, like you I’m sad it didn’t take of in a major way. Having said that, even if PT will die or will enter a prolonged slumbering hiatus, and therefore will remain in the public sphere just a clinic in LA, still it’s an impressive achievement for a clinic of psychotherapy to have lasted continuously for 50 years now. Even in a big city such as LA, my guess is you will not count such long-lived clinics on more than five fingers.

    • Daniel, well clearly I can’t know for sure what Judy might be thinking of PT these days, but I can say that I believe it will require deep financing and a strong core organizational structure (even if small) to keep the Primal ideals alive in the decades to come.
      It would certainly be tragic to see PT’s techniques and teachings die out along with its main practitioners. Reaching out to those in pain certainly is a noble goal, yet most of those in pain may not be in a strong enough life position to significantly bolster the strength of the core Primal organizational structure even if said clients are convinced of the therapy’s efficacy.
      Deep financing and a strong core organizational structure seem to be the highest priorities, then work out towards the ones in need once a proper central structure’s survival is reasonably ensured.

      • A problem with having a lot of ‘pseudo’ or ‘mock’ therapists scattered far and wide is there may not be sufficient peer feedback from fellow therapists, not enough of a centralized database of client studies from which to develop better techniques, etc. The discipline and knowledge can become more fragmented and less effective when therapists are widely dispersed as lone wolves (whole is greater than sum of its parts). A bunch of widely scattered therapists working from home offices under a single Primal banner with Zoom staff meetings seems possible, I don’t know.
        Lots of ideas to consider, but I’m still on the needy patient side of the fence so I will have to pass the baton to others for the time being.

    • When the London Association Of Primal Psychotherapists formed (about 1986) it was because of dwindling staff at the (1984 – 6) Paris Institute and some disagreements with Art on technique (too raw, risky and painful for some patients)… For some years the term “Primal” was used by them but slowly they came to see that “Primal” is not supported well in the UK and certainly not allied to at all well by the (anti feeling risk averse) NHS UK ..Some of them later have done work for the NHS UK but under the guise of other therapy modalities… EMDR/CBT…. Swinging yer eyes about seems popular … I seem to recall Mesmer did the same thing (laughs)

      The same ex Paris Institute people work under :

      Marsha (a good soul like the rest) was my 1st therapist at Paris and she is currently the only one to barely mention “Primal” in her resume … Art never seemed to endorse anyone really doing “Primal Therapy” properly recognised by him outside of his more immediate control.

      PT anyway has given way to seeing that other modalities can be useful and it’s not “all about a rush to feelings” – it’s also about “resolving feelings with well connected grief/mourning” of unmet needs and being careful to do that at each patient’s pace … Not forcing it ..PT at the Janov Centre in the 1990’s (after Paris) became more gentle in some ways so I heard – at least it did not try to bust defences so much as early PT did ..

      Don’t worry about “PT” … It’s not a mystifying technique to resolve pain and unmet needs but something that can be re-discovered again and again by the fact that people in pain will need a straightened voice that connects to the depths of their unfelt early grief about lost needs – lost love and care from parents or figures that could not care or love or assist in life …. It is part of nature so it will survive in some forms.

      Have faith that there are humans out there who will see and feel this and may never call themselves “Primal Therapists” … Just good”Therapists” with a depth that some patients will feel deeply enough and become attracted to. That’s the way of it all now ..Chance… We were lucky in history to meet a moment of concentrated focus on some techniques but it will never disappear – it will always remain marginalised though in a world of neurotic cultures which made us all ….. Remember that … And dangle yer finger in front of yer eyes and laugh and cry about how Mesmer’s ghost re-incarnated himself in EMDR …

      “Gretchen” … I recall your name from long ago ..I recall a name too that went with it ? “Castle” in a old PT Newsletter that helped me many many years ago…. I do like Castles… I am Olde English..;)

    • Sylvia says:

      Daniel, I wonder if Judy was just afraid to call herself primal or allude to the fact that she studied or trained at a bona fide primal clinic. Art’s warning of prospective patients to not go to places where therapists weren’t primally certified were seen as not fully trained, from things I have read. Judy probably did not want that target on her back as being pointed out as not fully trained. In the “Newsletter” he named organizations and individuals who were claiming to ‘do primal’ and that they had no affiliation with him. Better to lay low, maybe, and not draw attention or fire even though her therapy may be primally oriented and be beneficial to clients. Some therapies now call themselves, ‘deep feeling therapy’ or ‘regressive therapy’ that explore childhood trauma. “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

      • Sylvia, the possibility you mentioned certainly would sound plausible during the time Art was still living, but now that he’s been deceased several years (discontinued listing names) and with Daniel saying he recently checked her website, other unknown possibilities might become more likely .

        • Sylvia says:

          It could be that the primal brand has lost its luster. It’s fifty yrs. old. The younger generations don’t even know what it is, so it may have little meaning for them. I don’t know what Daniel’s former co-therapist’s website looks like as to how she describes her therapy or whether it is primal except in name–who knows.

          • Sylvia, I have to shift gears for a second because of a feeling. I saw a picture today of a cat who had corneal ulcers and had both of its eyes surgically removed. The cat’s still living, but looks like an eyeless skull, as can be imagined.
            Feelings of shock, horror, sadness, and depression. Art mused quite a bit on the preciousness and fragility of life, so that cat picture brought it home for me once more, being hammered by materialism (death as eternal oblivion) and the sheer brute force of it all regardless of a sense of moral right or wrong.

            • This is probably where I’d lay down with a therapist and be crying in a few minutes given the right facilitation. My own therapy is frustratingly incomplete sometimes.

              • Sylvia says:

                Maybe you could just try crying on your own and staying with the feeling, even if you don’t cry, you are giving time to the feeling. Little steps are valuable too. When I first started having my feelings, I watched the hoarder’s videos and felt about how those people were suffering and it opened my ability to feel more. You never know what will work for you in the way of getting access to your feelings. Many feelings are accessible if we give them a little time. It’s worth the effort, at least it has been for me. Big feelings can be overwhelming, but I think the small ones we can do on our own.

  21. David says:

    I tried posting this yesterday, but for some reason it didn’t go through. I wouldn’t read too much into Judy not calling herself a Primal Therapist or including it in her bio. It’s an individual thing how therapists decide to brand themselves – I’ll use that term for want of a better one – and “Primal Therapist” simply does not have the pulling power that it would have done in the 70’s or 80’s. When I bought my copy of The Primal Scream in the 80s it had a high level of visibility in bookstores, but those days are long gone. Also, The Primal Scream and Primal Therapy somehow got conflated along the way to become primal scream therapy to the media and the public; a misleading, one dimensional description that all Primal Therapists I know have sought to distance themselves from. My therapist, who I’ve worked with for nearly twenty years, calls herself a Deep Feeling Therapist which I think is a more accurate and relatable description of the therapy she does. But she doesn’t distance herself from her roots and has no problem saying where she was trained.
    The big thing PT has going for it, and it helped me in this regard, is the down to earth logic of it’s theory, which can give a person the courage to get in touch with feelings they wouldn’t otherwise want to go anywhere near. My therapist told me she’s observed that only people who have read The Primal Scream will let themselves feel pain. I think that’s telling.

  22. David says:

    I’ve been trying since yesterday to post a longer comment around the recent topic of conversation here, but for some reason it’s not going through. Frustrating. Let’s see if this makes it.

    • Sylvia says:

      David, that’s great you have someone to work with who knows primal. It makes sense that therapists who trained in primal therapy would go back to where they lived before and practice therapy via the internet or phone, besides treating patients locally.

      Good to hear from you, David. Hope you are feeling well.

      • David says:

        Thanks Sylvia, I hope you are well also. Yes, it’s been really great to have someone who I feel is in my corner and who knows me really well. Having said that, since I would say about 95% of the primaling I’ve done has been on my own, I can also relate to your story of self-primaling without a therapist. It’s amazing that you had such success just through your own initiative. I’ve known a few people like that, but not many.

  23. David says:

    Aha, I see it made it.

  24. Daniel says:

    Thanks Paul, Guru, Sylvia and David for your responses. Whatever the causes and it’s just a fact that PT did not take off in a way that would break the boundaries of time and space. Even though for a while it seemed like it’s about to happen.

    There was one sentence in David’s comment that stood out for me: “My therapist told me she’s observed that only people who have read The Primal Scream will let themselves feel pain”.

    Perhaps I’m misreading it but this is absolutely wrong and perhaps even points to some of the reasons for the decline of PT. Pain does not belong to PT or the PI or to Janov. Pain is a human phenomenon and humans have felt pain even before Janov came along. In my opinion, even the methods of treating people in pain should not belong to a person or a group. Once they are out there anybody in the field could use, expand, and modify them. That is what keeps theories and methods alive – the debate and the constant dialog.

    Once you feel otherwise you start believing you personally hold the final Truth, that you now have at your disposal the tools to save the world, and you get really frustrated when the world does not seem to listen or wish to be saved by you.

    I have no idea if any of this describes the actual attitude of the Janovs or the PI, but I do think in the writings PT has always tried to distinguish itself form others rather than trying to find some common ground. It takes vision and it takes luck to form a successful movement.

    But still, PT has helped me immensely and nothing will take that away.

  25. David says:


    My therapist was simply relating her experience to me, I don’t see how you can say that is “absolutely wrong”. I very much doubt she was implying that only people who have read TPS have got upset or cried or expressed grief with her, or that that can only happen within the confines of PT, that would be ridiculous. But there is something almost counter-intuitive about turning towards something that really hurts, like leaning into the curve when you’re on a motorcycle. Everything in you is telling you not to do it, that it’s dangerous, yet with trust and guidance you learn that that is the way to go. That’s the best way I can think of, by way of analogy, to describe what she was saying to me.

    • Daniel says:

      I agree, because it’s natural to turn away form pain. On the other hand, the mind also wants the truth, it needs the truth as a guardian of sanity and as nourishment, and the truth is often painful. For me the important thing was to re-learn to cry, to connect to feelings. From there – anything can happen. I wanted to write about some of that after what I recently replied to Phil about his marital difficulties, which made me think about it or actually begin to formulate what I have always felt. For me, part of the work, the “cure” if you will, was the pluralistic aspect of Janov’s method (which, I think, he never fully addressed). I know it probably sounds unclear at the moment so I will have to expand a bit to make it clearer. I can not do it now but perhaps it will come along with this discussion.

  26. I did (still do) pick up that some people out in the community of trauma (which most of us live within one way or another) who wanted therapy, have and had over-focus on “Pain” .. Sometimes in some people that could lead to working to feel feelings of trauma but without a key resolving part of the resolving equation understood … I’ll explain ..

    Trying to produce access to pain in itself is fraught with dangers of breaking down gates and producing too much access and thus confusional states ..This is why selection of (feelings and felt) story in the present to past is often so necessary but also in every “pain” situation, felt as generated by earlier life, one finds the absence of the “rescuer” or carer – namely the parent. You were not loved … That absence gives way to cries of unmet needs (Call to the parent/s) and grief ..

    “Pain” therefore is actually unmet need of care, and unmet need when felt is the doorway to loss. Grief and tears are the hallmarks of resolving pain .. Grief that is , in context ..Pain in itself is not resolving necessarily … In fact for some it can be a torture without release .

    Art’s quantum moment of perfect illumination lies with seeing that “Danny” finally cried out for a presence who was not there enough … “Mommy!!” .. Art’s extra illuminations into this was : “One cannot just cry out and use a mock process to ape resolution of pain” … One has to select the context and story as it emerges from a dialogue of felt feelings with the patient – until they can feel into themselves enough ..

    Danny was ready …Who helped that truly too ? Raphael Oritz – the Artist who “Spewed up for mommy on stage” … Art saw that too .. Raphael travelled into feelings to rescue the baby-self who needed mommy ..

    Art was in fact refining (grief pathways in) therapy to show it’s mainly about loss of love, care and therapy to be effective entails grief and feelings of loss to reach points of resolution..

    I really would have liked simplifications like the above because they hit the mark and do not claim any special status as was done in the “markestisation” of PT as way overly different from good deep therapies and especially when “Pain” has been used as a focus rather than “unmet needs which must become translated back into grief and losses of care/love” …..In therapy in fact, we give Grief A Chance… A long one ..

  27. rlimeres says:

    This is very good. Thanks for posting this! Is there a date this exchange was taken? Great questions from the interviewer and some very insightful responses from Vivian. I did therapy at the Insitute in West Hollywood back in the early 70s and vividly remember my scrutinizing interview with Vivian prior to admission. She was very sharp. I had a few interactions with her during my time there and she was always on target, it seemed. Had a lot of respect for her! I guess she has passed by now?

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