Why You Get Sick and How You Get Well by Arthur Janov Ph.D., Dove Books, West Hollywood, CA, 1996, pp. 295, $24.95

Reviewed by John A. Speyrer

"Over the last thirty years I have learned a great deal about humans and what drives them. As trite as it may seem, what I have found is a single yet complex emotion called love. Not the romantic love of novels, but a fundamental love -- the love of a parent for a child. When a child lacks love and nuturing, no matter how that lack is manifest, it creates pain, and if this pain is not "felt" or integrated into the system, it will in turn cause physical and emotional illness in later life."

--- Arthur Janov, From the Introduction

This book is the ninth authored by the chief theoretician of primal therapy. It is undoubtedly the most attractive of all of Dr. Janov's books and contains twenty-seven interesting new case studies, two photographs, and numerous colored charts and graphs.

Some have called Janov's books simply a re-hashing of his previous writings, but to my mind, this is an unfair criticism since, over time, the easily enunciated primal premise has remained the same: that repressed unmet need/trauma is the cause of neurosis and that experiencing the repressed material in a complete way helps to resolve its effects. For this reason, one should not expect that each of his books be radically different. Each book is an interesting variation on this same primal theme.

New ideas mentioned in previous books become fleshed-out in subsequent writings. For example, this work contains more information about the effects of electroshock therapy. In the section on depression, the useful effects of the newer anti-depressants are examined. A repeated theme through the book concerns the pernicious effects of oxygen deprivation in utero and during the birth process.

Another expansion of an earlier concept, is Dr. Janov's development and refinement of his analysis of brain waves. He believes their study reveals much important information about the pre-primal, in-primal and post-primal status of the patient. He calls this procedure 'brain mapping' and believes that the use of brain maps makes it possible to diagnose and predict a patient's rate of progression in primal therapy. He believes that the extent of repression is revealed in such brain maps.

The latest study (the fourth), was made under the direction of Dr. E. Michael Holden at Janov's Brain Research Laboratory. Dr. Holden is a neurologist and was the former medical director of Janov's Primal Institute. As far as I know, Dr. Janov is the only person who has ever attempted to analyze the results of a psychotherapy by interpreting electroencephalograms (EEG's) of patients. This is a difficult undertaking, and whether his analyses and conclusions will be eventually accepted and validated by neuro-scientists and the psychotherapeutic community must await the judgment of time.

I was disappointed to find little material in Janov's most recent book about a subject that has of late become much discussed by the primal community: whether or not merely feeling one's past in primals is sufficient to "cure" neurosis. Alice Miller, and others, have contended that it takes much more than merely re-living early traumas. Many believe that it is crucial to do so, but that one must also engage in new behaviors (often the opposite of previous neurotic patterns) to really benefit from primal therapy.

About the only acknowledgment by Dr. Janov that this issue is being discussed by others is when he explains how one gets well. He writes in his latest work, that to be healed, (1) one's symptoms must become linked up with specific early traumas, (2) that pains must be allowed to be felt in the opposite order which they occurred and (3) that lower intensity traumas be felt before more painful ones. "Finally," he writes: (p. 219), ". . . we may use this new and enlarged consciousness for different behaviors that we consciously choose, rather than be compelled to act out as before." (my italics) Others are more emphatic, and insist that we must begin these new behaviorial options, otherwise there will be no resolution.

Janov seems to imply that new behaviors might be necessary, but does not actually say so; nor does he mention or discuss how difficult it most probably will be for the primaler to put those new behaviors into practice. I doubt that primal patients will willingly choose the new scary and unfamiliar actions. Encouragement and continual encouragement by the therapist may be necessary. This is one more reason why self-primaling can be a difficult undertaking.

Dr. Janov writes that during the past twenty-five years, he has seen thousands of patients and has never witnessed a primal patient re-living a past life. Such re-livings sometimes occur at primal centers where it may become a part of the center's therapy model. As point of fact, re-living past lives was the theme of the 1996 International Primal Association's September conference held in New Jersey.

Arthur Janov believes that such experiences are caused by an overload of repressed material flooding consciousness. He claims that such overloads are also the source of transpersonal as well as mystical experiences and believes that these overloads do not occur at his center because he and his therapists see to it that all material accessed in a session is properly integrated.

Why You Get Sick and How You Get Well is another interesting, well written, and highly recommended book by the discoverer of primal therapy.