Others Reply to Martin Gardner's
Attack On Primal Therapy

By John A. Speyrer

The September/October, 2001 issue of Skeptical Inquirer magazine contained three letters to the editor about Martin Gardner's article critical of primal therapy. The article appeared in the May/June, 2001 issue of the magazine. Earlier, I had written a reply to the polemic (See Review of Gardner's Primal Therapy: A Persistent New Age Therapy.

Anthony J.M. Garrett, Ph.D. of Cambridge, England asks "How do false memory adherents explain that memory and feeling are often evoked together in therapy? False memories might be induced, but false feelings?"

"Gardner cites the death of Candace Newmaker in a mistaken and dangerous form of therapy that attempts to access repressed feelings by recreating the trauma. This was not primal therapy either licensed or unlicensed by Janov. Indeed Gardner does not use the word "primal" to describe Candace's therapy. This appears to be an attempt to smear Janov's work by association."

Dr. Garrett continues: "Gardner also simply refuses to believe that bruises can reappear on the body of someone reliving a traumatic event that caused bruising. In this case the event was a difficult birth; but the claim can be tested with therapy on rape victims. Is Gardner saying he is incapable of revising his opinions no matter what the evidence?"

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Richard Morrock, of Bayside, New York wrote that he was a skeptic himself and has lectured to two east coast skeptical organizations on psychological subjects. Since he is also a "veteran of primal therapy" he feels that he is in a good position to respond to Gardner's article.

He writes, "Janov's commitment to the scientific point of view should be clear to anyone who ever read him, and is exemplified by the fact that he submitted his latest work to Prometheus Books.

"Janov always focused on the subtle hurts parents inflicted on their children. This does not represent any bias on his part, hut rather the results from patients' sessions. As I saw, the big problems were neglect, excessive scolding, desertion, divorce, incessant guilt-tripping, overprotection, preference of one child to another, children being left at school at too early an age, and occasionally violence. The reason these rather commonplace events were traumatic was that the children were prohibited from expressing their anguish at the rime; they held it in, and that added up to neurosis in adult life. Primal therapy gave them a safe place to let it out."

He wrote that there is much evidence to prove that adult brains contain the imprints of birth memories. Two journals are devoted to the psychological effects of birth trauma. He feels that "Gardner should have spent some time listening to former patients in primal therapy who resolved various problems after recovering their birth memories."

Morrock concludes his letter:

"We are only beginning to understand the workings of the mind, and as it happens, Arthur Janov is light-years ahead of the competition. Prometheus Books is to be congratulated for having the courage to publish him."

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The last letter was from Kati Wicksrrom of Stuart, Florida and mostly concerned the inner wranglings about Prometheus Books decision to publish Janov's The Biology of Love . She felt that Paul Kurtz had a lame excuse for publishing Janov's book since he didn't want to be suppressive but she shudders "to think of what next may be published out of a fear of suppression."

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