Articles Review - Towards a New Consciousness, Arthur Janov, Ph.D., pp. 333-339 - Primal Pathophysiology, E. Michael Holden, M.D., pp. 342-350, Journal of Psychosomatic Research, Vol. 21, 1977, Permagon Press, Great Britain

Reviewed by John A. Speyrer

These two articles are transcripted from a presentation made by Drs. Janov and Holden in England. Accompanying the lectures were many charts and photographs. The lectures were made after the publication of Janov's Primal Man - The New Consciousness and are an excellent synopsis of their book.

Dr. Janov explained how the discovery of primal therapy was made during his standard insight clinical practice as a psychologist:

One day a young man who was in my group talked about a man on the London stage doing a vaudeville act, named Raphael Ortise. His act involved marching up and down the stage in diapers, drinking milk out of a bDttle, yelling "Mama, Mama", and inviting the audience to join him. The young man in the office said he was intrigued by the act and I didn't know why, so I encouraged him to do it himself, not knowing also why. He did it, and that type of regression, shown on the film, is what I saw. Now I had no idea what it was or what to even call it but I taped my sessions in those days and I listened to that tape over and over for months. Then a few months later I had a cowboy come in, who said something about his mother. I said "Why don't you call her". He did and had the same reaction, on the floor writhing and then getting up and saying he felt fantastic. Well, I tried it with patients again and again over the years and from that simple beginning we have developed a very complex theory to explain it and a valuable clinical psychotherapeutic method in order to treat what lies in there. [p. 334]

Janov explained that all of us we born with giant NEEDS and when these critical needs are not met we become in a state of PAIN. The automatic mechanism of repression then shuts off perception of the pain as well as the original need. This state of being is experienced as TENSION and NEUROSIS is thus developed. A faulty neurosis can result in a PSYCHOSIS.

What primal therapy does, he explained, is reverse the way the tension was originally laid down. The tension is used as a way to open the blocked consciousness. As the consciousness is unblocked the original unfelt need is felt in a total psychophysiologic way. "This then dissipates the energy of that pain and ceases to drive neurosis." [p. 337]

Dr. Janov mentioned that new-born babies have an unmistakable cry and that the cry is heard during primals of patients reliving their births. The cry cannot be duplicated even by a patient who has made the cry previously. He emphasized the necessity of dealing directly with the actual source of neurosis and psychosomatic disease which are permanently encoded in the brain. Techniques which do not involve the actual access to these stored memories and pain, he said, are merely palliative and do not cure the problem.

He ended his discussion by emphasizing that the methodical approach to accessing trauma is best and believes that going directly to birth feelings right away can be dangerous since "the patient is flooded with pain instead of integrating small pains at a time over many, many months."

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In the Chapter entitled Primal Psychophysiology Neurologist E. Michael Holden, writes that ". . . psychosomatic illnesses are the direct result of unintegrated pain from childhood." When the presentation was given he was the medical director of the Primal Institute.

In the second part of his presentation, Dr. Holden summarizes five interesting case studies illustrating how psychosomatic diseases have their origin in our earlier life.

  • The first case he discusses was of a man who had a heart attack and afterwards suffered from angina after exercise. A treadmill test (with EKG) resulted in severe shortness of breath and left arm heaviness. After primal therapy he no longer had these symptoms except when he puts off having a primal feeling. A repetition of the treadmill test showed that his cardiac reserve had increased.

  • The second case study was of a male primal patient who had episodes of unexplained vomiting as an infant. During his early teen years he developed mucous colitis, which symptom continued to be triggered under severe emotional stress. After primal therapy he was able to discontinue all medications and developed the colitis only when he needed to primal. In primals he was able to hook up the second line cause of his disease to a fear of his father who used to beat him unmercifully.

  • Another case study dealt with an asthmatic man who developed his symptoms at age two. He noticed in therapy that the primal was able to eliminate the asthma even more quickly than the medication he was taking. When he has an attack of asthma he was able to almost instanteously resolve the attack by primalling.

  • The fourth case was of a man who suffered from migraine headaches with nausea. When the patient allowed himself to relive his birth feelings in primals the migraine headaches resolved themselves between ten and fifteen minutes. The number of migraine headaches he had after therapy were greatly reduced and when he has an attack he is able to resolve it quickly.

  • The last case discussed involved a man with severe high blood pressure. Like the other case studies he was able to reduce his symptom by primalling. Interestingly, he noticed that when he becomes depressed and is able to cry his blood pressure is normal. When the depression lifts he is no longer aware of the need to primal but his hypertension had become higher. Dr. Holden writes: "Here we see an exchange between a symptom existing when awareness of suffering is slight, and the absence of the symptom when suffering and reactivity to Pain are great."

In discussing the general implications and principles illustrated, Holden mentioned that psychosomatic symptoms occur in those who do not feel their early traumas in primals. Eventually, it becomes an either/or choice. Thus, one can feel the early Pain or one can suffer from the symptom. The cause of the symptom becomes clear to the patient during the re-experiencing as the patient begins to know why he has that particular psychosomatic symptom. The symptoms often have a deeper origin in earlier traumas, oftentimes in birth and even before.

For an excellent article on psychosomatic disease and primal therapy, see
Dr. Holden's Symptom Formation In Neurosis in The Journal of Primal Therapy, Vol III, Nr 1, Winter, 1976, pp. 5 - 25.

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