Date: Monday 4th May
Time: 14:00 - 15:30
Room: Westminster Suite

In the era of widespread interest in trauma, its aetiology and treatment, this presentation will re-consider the theories of Arthur Janov, focussing particularly on the powerfully addictive drug (hopium) that is produced by and sustains the futile struggle to get that we can never have while perpetuating denial of that painful reality. It will aim to illuminate the connection between traumatic responses to developmental needs, the pain this causes and the system that arises to defend against its conscious experience, including addiction. It will consider possible therapeutic interventions in this context.

Especially since the publication of the study into Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE), interest in the lasting impact of early-life trauma on mental and physical health has grown and keeps growing. The addiction treatment field has become increasingly interested in the part that acknowledging and dealing with trauma plays in securing recovery.

This presentation will propose that in this context, it would be sensible to rediscover and consider the work of Arthur Janov, author of The Primal Scream (1970), Prisoners of Pain (1980) amongst other works. We will find that much of what is being “newly discovered” was in fact first set out by Janov 50 years ago. The presentation could be subtitled: For crying out loud give Janov his due!

While drawing the connection between primal need, trauma and primal pain as explained by Janov, the presentation will explore how a neurotic system develops to ensure the pain remains out of consciousness but in so doing preserves it and allows it to determine much of the approach (often counterproductive) to life. It argues that addiction develops through use of external reinforcements to suppress conscious experience of the pain. Addiction to Hopium is explained as central to the futile neurotic struggle to get what was once needed but can never be obtained as a way of avoiding conscious experience of primal pain.

Therapeutic approaches to withdrawing from hopium and addressing the pain and its effects will be explored. Effective containment enables recovery while avoiding any threat of disintegration.

Learning objectives:

1. Gain an understanding of Arthur Janov’s hypothesis of primal needs and pain as they relate to the development of a person’s self-defeating (neurotic) approach to life, including the development of addiction.

2. Acquire insight into how primal pain is kept out of consciousness including through addiction to Hopium, which not only postpones healing but also compounds suffering.

3. As a contribution to the development of practice, benefit from an exploration of ways to help people resolve unconscious pain and its effects.

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