The Primal Scream

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The Primal Scream (Dell, January 1 1970) is a book by Arthur Janov Ph. D, the inventor of Primal Therapy. It is subtitled Primal Therapy: The Cure for Neurosis. The book describes the experiences Arthur Janov had with 63 patients during his first 18 months (starting in 1967[1]) discovering and practicing Primal Therapy. Janov claimed in the book a 100% cure rate [2].

Some editions of The Primal Scream featured Edvard Munch's painting The Scream on the cover. See, for example, the 1977 edition published by ABACUS. This edition does not reproduce the entire painting, focusing on the screaming figure at its center, holding up its hands to its head.



The Introduction gives an account of how Janov heard in 1967 what he considered a remarkable scream from one of his patients, a twenty-two year old college student, identified with the pseudonym Danny Wilson. Janov likened the scream to what one might hear from a person about to be murdered. Janov suggested that the scream could "change the nature of psychotherapy as it is now known." According to Janov, despite the fact that neither his patient nor he himself could see the sense in such a childish act, he asked Wilson to call out "Mommy! Daddy!". After some reluctance and hesitation, Wilson followed Janov's instruction. As a result, Wilson became upset, had convulsions, and finally uttered a loud scream. Following the scream, Wilson declared: "I made it! I donĀ“t know what, but I can feel!". Janov claimed that several months later he tried the same procedure on a thirty year old patient, identified with the pseudonym Gary Hillard, and that Hillard also screamed. Janov wrote that he and Hillard were both shocked by this, but afterwards Hillard gained insights and seemed to understand himself. Janov wrote that he developed Primal Therapy as an outgrowth of his explanations of the changes he observed in his patients.

Chapter 1, The Problem, begins by defining a theory as "the meaning we give a certain observed sequence of reality." Janov complained about the proliferation of different therapeutic theories and approaches, writing that "What we have lacked is some kind of unified structure that would offer concrete guidelines on how to proceed with patients during each and every hour of therapy." Janov insisted that all neuroses had the same cause and responded to the same treatment. Janov then criticised Freud for his belief that people are born neurotic, and that people with the strongest defence systems are the best able to function in society. Janov contrasted this view with his view that, "There is a state of being quite different from what we have conceived: a tensionless, defense-free life in which one is completely his own self and experiences deep feeling and internal unity."

Chapter 2, Neurosis, claims that neurosis is caused by unsatisfied needs. According to Janov, "Since the infant cannot himself overcome the sensation of hunger...or find substitute affection, he must separate his sensations...from consciousness. This separation of oneself from one's needs and feelings is an instinctive maneuver in order to shut off excessive pain. We call it the split." These suppressed needs persist and must be expressed symbolically, but these symbolic satisfactions can never fulfill the underlying need. The suppression of feeling leads to the development of neurosis by a series of stages, leading to a division into a real and an unreal self. Janov calls the event that finally triggers neurosis the major Primal Scene, stating that it usually occurred between ages five and seven. The major Primal Scene is preceded by many minor Primal Scenes.

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