Arthur Janov, Psychologist Who Set the globe Screaming, Dies at 93

“Few treatments have been more dramatic, more highly touted or quicker to catch on than primal therapy,” The Los Angeles Times wrote in 1971.

Mr. Williams, the article continued, had publicly counted Dr. Janov “as one of history’s a few greatest men (along with Socrates, Galileo, Freud in addition to Darwin).”

Dr. Janov appeared to concur. Primal therapy, he told an interviewer in 1971, was “the most important discovery of the 20th century.”


The 1980 edition of Dr. Janov’s first book, “The Primal Scream,” originally published in 1970. The book made him a celebrity.

G. P. Putnam’s Sons

The therapy’s premise was simple: All adult neurosis — in addition to with “neurosis” Dr. Janov cast a wide net — stemmed coming from repressed infant in addition to early-childhood trauma at the hands of one’s parents.

He called This particular trauma “primal pain,” in addition to This particular was manifest, he said, in a cornucopia of ills in which could include a variety of mood disorders as well as heart disease, high blood pressure, ulcerative colitis, drug addiction in addition to stuttering.

He also listed homosexuality among the ailments in which primal therapy could “cure,” in addition to continued to list This particular long after the American Psychiatric Association declassified This particular as a psychiatric disorder in 1973.

Dr. Janov maintained in which the way to relieve primal pain — in addition to cure its associated ills — was to relive This particular via primal therapy, which entailed a regressive return to those distressing, right now-accessible early memories.

Reporting in 1971 on a visit to the Primal Institute, which Dr. Janov had established three years before, The Boston Globe wrote:

“He has equipped his therapy chambers with an array of nursery props — teddy bears, cribs, playpens, dolls, football helmets, baby rattles, security blankets — all to help adults turn the clock back.”

The primal scream in which could result coming from these sessions (“This particular sounds,” Dr. Janov told People magazine in 1978, “like what you might hear coming from a person about to be murdered”) was not the objective of the therapy per se. This particular was rather, he said, a sonic barometer of its liberating effects.

Such behavior quickly came to be called “having a primal” or “primaling,” in addition to soon a brand new noun in addition to verb were deposited into the Oxford English Dictionary.


“Primal therapy will be not just producing people scream,” Dr. Janov wrote on the website of the Janov Primal Center, a treatment, research in addition to therapist-training facility in which he established in 1989 in addition to operated with his second wife, the former France Daunic. “This particular was never ‘screaming’ therapy.”

Primal therapy was in many ways of a piece with its time. The quest for happiness amid postwar suburban anomie had already spawned Dianetics, the metaphysical movement first propounded in 1950 by L. Ron Hubbard, who four years later rebranded This particular as Scientology.

The ’60s counterculture saw the birth of the human potential movement, with its promises of enlightened personal fulfillment. The ’70s could see the advent of EST, the set of self-improvement seminars established in 1971.

“Janov’s primal therapy will be a classic instance of being the right charismatic therapist at the right time — This particular’s the zeitgeist,” John C. Norcross, distinguished professor of psychology at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania, said in a recent telephone interview. “There was also a belief in which repressive strictures of society were holding people back. Hence a therapy in which was to loosen the repression could somehow cure mental illness. So This particular fit perfectly.”

However, Dr. Norcross added, “There will be no evidence in which screaming in addition to catharsis bring long-term emotional relief.”

within the well-liked press, early reviewers of “The Primal Scream” were intrigued if cautious.

Writing within the Los Angeles Times in 1970, the book critic Robert Kirsch sounded an admonitory note about its “hyperbole” in addition to “evangelic certainty.” in which said, he continued:

“Where he deals with theory in addition to practice rather than the effort to convert disciples, Dr. Janov will be an impressive writer in addition to thinker. Certainly, This particular will be a work worth reading in addition to considering.”

Psychologists questioned the book’s assertions coming from the beginning. They cited, among some other issues, the unverifiability of its central claim of the existence of primal pain in addition to the lack of independent, controlled studies demonstrating the therapy’s effectiveness.

yet the rhapsodic public endorsement of Mr. Lennon, who, with his wife, Ms. Ono, underwent primal therapy with Dr. Janov in 1970, caused “The Primal Scream” to be heard round the globe.

Mr. Lennon’s album “John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band,” a post-Beatles recording released in 1970, was by his own account a reflection of in which therapy. This particular included anguished, half-sung, half-screamed songs like “Mother” (“Mother, you had me, yet I never had you / I wanted you, you didn’t want me”) in addition to “My Mummy’s Dead.”

In a companion album, “Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band,” Ms. Ono recorded similar anguish.

The Primal Institute was soon receiving 100 calls a day coming from prospective patients. At its height, This particular had branches in brand new York in addition to Paris.

Although primal therapy has not, as Dr. Janov widely predicted, rendered some other forms of psychotherapy obsolete, This particular has managed to outlive the ’70s by a considerable margin.

The English rock group Tears for Fears, founded in 1981, took its name, in addition to the subject matter of many of its songs, in homage to the method.

Today, the original Primal Institute, right now overseen by Dr. Janov’s first wife, the former Vivian Glickstein, continues to treat patients. So does the Janov Primal Center.

Yet much of the psychotherapeutic establishment right now regards the therapy as marginal. A 2006 article by Dr. Norcross in addition to colleagues within the journal Professional Psychology: Research in addition to Practice reported in which their survey of more than 100 “leading mental health professionals” had found primal therapy to be “certainly discredited” — together with treatments including angel therapy, crystal healing, past-lives therapy, future-lives therapy in addition to post-alien-abduction therapy.

“This particular’s both a discredited theory in addition to treatment in mental health,” Dr. Norcross said. “Today, I look back at This particular as an unfortunate yet understandable product of its time: believing in which pure emotional Discharge could prove therapeutic.”

Through the years Dr. Janov remained undaunted, continuing to write ardently of primal therapy’s power. This particular was a power, he argued in later work, in which could ameliorate not only mental in addition to physical problems yet also societal ones.

“I believe This particular brand new primal consciousness will be the only wish if mankind will be to survive,” he wrote in “Primal Man: The brand new Consciousness” (1975, with E. Michael Holden). He added, “Primal consciousness certainly means an end to war.”

The son of Conrad Janov, a butcher in addition to truck driver, in addition to the former Anne Corey, Arthur Janov was born in Los Angeles on Aug. 21, 1924.

By his own account, he grew up poor in addition to bellicose. Reared in a tough part of town, he was, as he told Rolling Stone magazine in 1971, “fighting Mexicans most of the time.”

After Navy service, he entered the University of California, Los Angeles, coming from which he earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology in addition to a master’s in psychiatric social work.

“My mother had a history of psychological analysis,” Dr. Janov told The Chicago Tribune in 1983. He was drawn to the field, he said, “to try to cure my mother, you see, so she’d take care of me in addition to get sane.”

He spent nearly 20 years providing conventional psychotherapy: He was on the psychiatric staff of the Los Angeles Children’s Hospital within the 1950s in addition to later opened a private practice. Along the way he earned a Ph.D. in psychology coming from what will be right now Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, Calif.

Then one day within the late 1960s, as he recounted in “The Primal Scream,” came the experience in which forever transformed his professional life: A patient told him about a performance artist he had seen in London, who took the stage wearing a diaper in addition to proceeded to drink milk coming from a bottle; cry, “Mommy! Daddy!”; in addition to, in cathartic culmination, retch.

Inspired, Dr. Janov asked his patient to cry out for his own parents. The patient demurred at first yet before long “was writhing on the floor,” calling for them, he wrote.

Dr. Janov continued, “Finally, he released a piercing, deathlike scream in which rattled the walls of my office,” adding: “All he could say afterward was: ‘I made This particular! I don’t know what, yet I can feel!’ ”

After encouraging another patient to cry out for his mother in addition to father, in addition to watching a similar scene unfold, he began to develop his ideas about primal pain.

To undergo primal therapy, which typically lasts about a year, a patient had to relocate to Los Angeles to be treated at Dr. Janov’s facility. The cost in 1978, People reported, was $6,0 — about $24,000 in today’s money.

After writing “The Primal Scream,” Dr. Janov asked his publisher to send a copy to Mr. Lennon. He went on to treat Mr. Lennon in addition to Ms. Ono, first in England in addition to later in California.

“Listen to his brand new album if you want to know what he got out of This particular,” Dr. Janov told Rolling Stone. “I played This particular for our group scene on Saturday, in addition to This particular was a milestone session. There were 50 people within the room, which will be more than we usually have, in addition to every one of them flipped. There were so many people screaming — having primals — you couldn’t hear yourself think.”

“This particular was,” he added, “wonderful.”

In later books — he wrote more than a dozen — Dr. Janov extended the time frame for repressed trauma backward, to include the baby’s arduous passage out of the womb at birth in addition to psychic trauma in utero.

A traumatic birth memory, he said, could even produce visible stigmata during a primal-therapy session.

“Patients reliving a birth sequence in my sessions have shown forceps marks on the forehead,” Dr. Janov wrote in “The Biology of Love” (2000). “Those marks never manifested themselves before because they had been gated away, stored as a memory.”

Dr. Janov’s marriage to Vivian Glickstein ended in divorce. In addition to his second wife, his survivors include a son, Rick, coming from his first marriage, who will be also a primal therapist. A daughter coming from his first marriage, Ellen Janov, a child singer in addition to actor turned primal therapist, died in 1976.

If Dr. Janov’s work was considered marginal by mainstream psychology, This particular appeared over time to have been marginalized by the publishing industry as well. Where his earlier books — including “The Primal Revolution” (Simon & Schuster, 1972), “Prisoners of Pain” (Anchor/Doubleday, 1980) in addition to “Imprints: The Lifelong Effects of the Birth Experience” (Coward-McCann, 1983) — were issued by major publishers, his later ones were brought out primarily by smaller presses, vanity presses in addition to print-on-demand houses.

Among these later titles are “Primal Healing” in addition to “The Janov Solution: Lifting Depression Through Primal Therapy,” both published in 2007, in addition to “Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script in which Rules Our Lives” (2011).

Dr. Janov’s most recent books included “Beyond Belief: Cults, Healers, Mystics in addition to Gurus — Why We Believe,” published in 2016 by Reputation Books.

In This particular, he wrote: “Individuals whose agonies have no rhyme or reason, whose barely contained desperation impels them to search for magic, badly need bearers of not bad tidings. Enter the Dr. Feelgoods, who promise wish against hopelessness, help against helplessness, whose incantations calm, soothe in addition to relieve.”

He added:

“Neurosis in addition to psychosis have us believing in which quartz crystals can make a sick person well; in which by humbling yourself in addition to giving yourself over to a higher power, you can follow 12 steps to salvation; in which a greedy charlatan who wears white robes holds the keys to wisdom; in which the rantings of a self-appointed messiah are God’s truth. So long as the feelings are inaccessible we remain prisoners of belief — more accurately, prisoners of pain.”

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