The Primal Mind

Exploring the primal roots of mental health

Archive for the ‘primal therapy’ Category

Why Past Life Therapy is Not Primal Therapy

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by Bruce Wilson

On a previous post, I was asked why I neglect “past lives” in my discussions of primal therapy. The short answer is that I am not convinced that past lives or past life memories are real. If someone were to produce convincing evidence for this, I might change my tune, but the evidence would have to be extremely powerful and incontrovertible.

In scientific terms, the claim for past lives is extraordinary, and as Carl Sagan said, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. I’m not saying I am certain that past lives don’t exist, only that the current evidence doesn’t support the idea. In fact, psychiatrists highly dedicated to the scientific method have produced suggestive evidence to support past life phenomena, but its relevance to psychotherapy is questionable. I explain why below. Read the rest of this entry »

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May 21st, 2011 at 4:30 pm

Primal Therapy and the Limits of Science

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by Bruce Wilson

A comment I hear frequently is that primal therapy can never be proven by science. As Phil states in his comment to my last post:

“…the actual practice of primal therapy can never really be scientific, in my opinion. How could it be when it is based on feelings? Adding blood pressure measurements and brain wave readings might help a little, but not much. What is critical is what the therapist says and does, and has the patient say or do. That can’t be scientific, I am afraid. It is based on feelings and intuitions on what will work or not work, based on experience and the degree to which a therapist has done his or her own feeling work.” Read the rest of this entry »

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May 11th, 2011 at 6:48 pm

Can empathy be learned?

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by Bruce Wilson

This morning, I received a tweet about a new book written by Simon Baron-Cohen, a Cambridge psychologist and psychiatrist who studies empathy. His book is Zero Degrees of Empathy: A New Theory of Human Cruelty.

Baron-Cohen says that our view of cruel people as “evil” is misguided and rooted in obsolete, theological notions of morality. In an interview with the Guardian, he explains that people who are cruel have a low capacity for empathy because of genetic makeup and early childhood experiences. Cruel people tend to have had an insecure attachment in infancy, now recognized as a critical factor in the human development of empathy. Read the rest of this entry »

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May 5th, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Primal Therapy and Spirituality

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by Bruce Wilson

The main purpose of this blog is to discuss the science of primal therapy, but I want to address a question that goes beyond science: is primal therapy compatible with spirituality and is spiritual practice compatible with primal?

First, let’s define those amorphous terms, “spiritual” and “spirituality.” To scientific skeptics, they often elicit a gag reflex. At worst, spirituality is condemned as “woo,” at best, it’s put in scare quotes, held it at a distance like some stinking, dead animal with comments like, “just what the hell is ‘spirituality’?” Check out the many blogs and websites devoted to skepticism and you’ll see that spirituality is usually equated with religion, God (or Satan), magic, the occult, mysticism, new age, ghosts, souls, spirits, fairies, angels, or a number of other supernatural concepts, and often scorned as “woo,” “spooky stuff” or worse. In my former life as a hard scientific skeptic, I had this same response, and I admit, I still have a visceral revulsion to the words, “religion” and “religious.” Read the rest of this entry »

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April 29th, 2011 at 11:12 am

Toward a True Science of Primal Therapy

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by Bruce Wilson

What is science? A simple definition is offered by George Orwell in his essay by that name. He defines science is either: “(a) an exact science, such as chemistry, physics, etc. or (b) a method of thought which obtains verifiable results by reasoning logically from observed fact.”

By this simple definition, primal therapy might be defined as a science. Arthur Janov developed his theory through observed facts by watching his patients descend into deep feelings, gain insights, and get better. He then reasoned logically from those facts and developed a therapy that obtained verifiable results. He then went further to find supportive evidence for his theory from physiology and neurobiology, both exact sciences (or close enough to it). Throughout this process, he developed a theory of mental illness based on early life trauma and a conclusion that primal therapy can be the one and only “cure for neurosis.”

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April 22nd, 2011 at 12:40 pm

Is Primal Therapy a Science or is it Pseudoscience?

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by Bruce Wilson

Critics have lambasted primal therapy for being pseudoscientific. In fact, much of criticism on the site I mentioned in my previous post is aimed at “debunking” the therapy as a pseudoscience. But Arthur Janov often states that primal therapy is “the first science of psychotherapy.”

So who is right? Let’s start with a brief primer on science vs pseudoscience.

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April 22nd, 2011 at 11:32 am

Debunking the Debunker

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by Bruce Wilson

Anyone searching online for information about primal therapy may have come across a website purporting to “debunk” the therapy. This is an elaborate site with many pages consisting of arguments drawn from clinical psychology, philosophy of science, and the rules of critical thinking, all aimed to expose primal therapy as a pseudoscientific fraud. (As a science writer, I have nothing against critical thinking, but I do object to its improper use as demonstrated on that website.)  The author is an insider, an ex-trainee at the Janov Primal Center, so he has a patina of authority that sets him apart from ignorant critics such as Martin Gardner, who wrote a horribly misinformed article in the Skeptical Inquirer called, Primal Therapy: A Persistent New Age Therapy. Despite that, the author cites Gardner’s article in his section, “articles exposing primal therapy” along with other misinformed or irrelevant books and articles, many of which have nothing to do with primal therapy. (The author of the website writes anonymously, so I will called him LP to preserve his identity.)

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January 29th, 2011 at 8:46 am

The Elements of Primal Theory

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by Peter Prontzos

Isaac Newton, one of the most celebrated scientists of all time, once remarked that he could see far because he was, “standing on the shoulders of giants.” In the same way, Arthur Janov’s ground-breaking approach to psychotherapy, primal therapy, combines some of the most important elements of his predecessors while providing a deeper and more complete theory of the healing process.

This became clear to me as I was reading the second edition of Louis Cozolino’s invaluable book, The Neuroscience of Psychotherapy.

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December 12th, 2010 at 11:12 pm

Peter’s letter to the LA Times

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by Peter Prontzos

Dear Editor,

There are a number of serious problems with your characterization of primal therapy, but I will discuss only the most serious one. The author claims that a “major flaw” with primal “is that studies have cast doubt on the existence of deeply repressed memories.”  The truth is the exact opposite.

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November 23rd, 2010 at 11:02 am

Primal therapy and religion

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by Bruce Wilson

A tip of the hat to David Mitchel Stow for his excellent post on primal pain, religion, forgiveness, and the essence of true religion versus the stuff that merely kills pain. Mitch has a way of eloquently expressing these topics so I’ve decided to reproduce some excerpts here.

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November 17th, 2010 at 4:32 pm