Welcome – How Primal Therapy relates to recent scientific research

What does Primal Therapy have to do with science? To illustrate how applying principles of Dr. Arthur Janov’s Primal Therapy can provide additional information that’s relevant to recent scientific research, I’ll start with the How do we assess “importance” in our lives? An example from scientists’ research choices study.

Do you agree that a person’s need to feel important can drive their choices in their career and personal life? My view of the referenced study was that the subject scientists’ needs to feel important were likely the underlying impetus for why they shaped their careers to become the Big Frogs in tiny puddles.

Do you agree that an individual’s need to feel important is NOT a basic human need on the same level as nourishment, protection, and socialization? How does this need arise in our lives?

The view of Primal Therapy is that the need to feel important arose from perhaps hundreds and thousands of early experiences when a person during infancy and early childhood was made to feel unimportant by the behavior of the people who mattered the most to them at the time. It’s a need created from the pain instilled by caregivers when they didn’t fulfill the child’s real needs such as food and touch.
An infant's basic need for touch

Can we use the regular scientific methodologies to research the origins of the need to feel important? It would be unethical to develop proof by depriving human children of their basic needs. And good luck using surveys of parents and other caregivers to uncover factual histories of how they treated their infants and young children.

The findings of much of the recent research I’ve curated on this blog, and the references in those studies show that when basic needs aren’t met, especially early in life, and the painful conditions persist, enduring physiological changes may occur. Could researchers use an approach such as the Early emotional experiences change our brains: Childhood maltreatment is associated with reduced volume in the hippocampus study, which used the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire and Adverse Childhood Experiences questionnaire? Not for personal experiences from age 3 and younger, which is when the need to feel important likely begins to develop.

Because biology can’t always inform us about behavior, I doubt that an animal study could provide direct evidence for the origins of this human need. The most relevant animal study I’ve curated thus far was The effects of early-life stress are permanent alterations in the child’s brain circuitry and function where the researchers used an indirect approach:

“The current study manipulates the type and timing of a stressor and the specific task and age of testing to parallel early-life stress in humans reared in orphanages.

The results provide evidence of both early and persistent alterations in amygdala circuitry and function following early-life stress.

These effects are not reversed when the stressor is removed nor diminished with the development of prefrontal regulation regions.”

In another illustrative study Why do we cut short our decision-making process? every one of the 37 subjects was unwilling to evaluate decisions that had initial large losses. ALL subjects chose less-rewarding paths even when they could see that the optimal outcome started with a loss!

An initially painful path is understandably a choice that few of us would make. However, a principle of Primal Therapy is that a way to improve human lives goes through the pain of feeling early unmet needs. Primal Therapy is a gradual process that incrementally lessens the impacts of early unmet needs.

What are some of the other continuing impacts of early unfulfilled needs? The Do the impacts of early experiences of hunger affect our behavior, thoughts, and feelings today? study showed that people are impelled to develop substitute needs now for what they really needed back in their early lives.

But relieving an itchy symptom (a substitute need) doesn’t resolve its cause (the impact of an early unfulfilled need).

People get caught up in circles of acting out their feelings and impulses driven by the underlying causes. These repetitive unconscious act-outs often become sources of misery both to the actors and to those around them.

With a lessened impact of early unmet needs, it follows that people would feel less impetus to fulfill substitute needs such as the need to feel important. Primal Therapy’s focus on addressing and resolving the underlying causes allows the presenting symptoms to gradually subside without being specifically treated.

So welcome to the Surface Your Real Self blog! I’m sure you will find some topics that interest you.


2 thoughts on “Welcome – How Primal Therapy relates to recent scientific research

  1. Dear Surfaceyourrealself,

    Arthur Janov forwarded a message from you concerning the following study:

    The Rockefeller/Cambridge summary study said the current status of research incorporating both epigenetic chemistry and behavioral neuroscience was:

    “A large number of behavioral epigenetic studies attempt to correlate epigenetic marker changes..at global levels and in mixed populations of cells with phenotypic changes. Specific changes at specific gene levels and at single cell levels correlating with behavioral changes remain largely unknown.”

    Could you direct me to the Rockefeller/Cambridge summary study and the meaning of the statement you sent? This could have implications for the future research of primal therapy.

    I am a science writer who works with Janov on certain projects. Would you care to introduce yourself?

    Bruce Wilson
    Montreal, Quebec


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