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The Biology of Love

Average Rating 4.5
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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2006

    a reviewer

    I think Janov's book The Biology of Love is too full of unscientific jumps of logic. His assertion that it is only logical to pursue pain to reverse the effects of pain is simplistic. Even if it is true that in the forward direction, trauma causes psychological problems (true I think, and important), it does not neccessarily mean the reverse is obviously true - that to reexperience pain will lead to a joyful existence that resembles the joy of young children. In my experience, the results from primal therapy also shine doubt on Janov's assertions. It is a pity, because so much of the book is valuable and important, for example the emphasis of love, and the criticisms of robotically extinguishing behaviors with behaviorism (not all behaviorism is bad though) are all good. But Janov's theory is taken to the extremes in his books, and by his followers, spoiling the valid points that they make. For example, gentle births and avoiding birth traumas are noble and correct causes. However, claiming that ALL psychological problems may have birth trauma as the underlying cause is pushing it too far. Suggesting reliving birth over and over again will reverse the effects of birth is also getting wacky. Janov's works have a tendency to draw you in with true and emotional themes, but they take you too far into his single deterministic model, and get you beleiving in things that are not proven, and actually unlikely. His model of understanding fails in some circumstances (as do all the grand theories), and in some cases evidence exists that contradicts some of the theory (for example modern research on surgery suggested mammals do better WITH pain medication, in the Primal Scream Janov suggested avoiding pain meds wherever possible, something I thing he may now disagree with, but has made no formal retraction). I would recommend learning about all the models in psychology to put this work in context, and look at all the recent data in the field 1990 to 2006. Despite Janov's attack on Freud, Primal is a derivative of Freudian work, with some of the similar problems and benefits that come from that model. The worst thing you could do is wrap yourself in a primal blanket, and think psychology's rejection of this work is somehow repressed or a conspiracy. Mainstream psychology would correctly argue that the evidence is mostly case study from a specific skewed population of Janov followers, at a specific time in their optimism and therapy cycle. Similar miraculous reports are found in spiritual healing practices, again with believer's testimony being emphasised and published when it is positive. In addition, rememeber this work was written a long time ago, and the diatribe against other psychological treatments is out of date (and in part unfair even at the time). However some of the criticisms of other treatments were valid, and important. Use scientific and critical thinking to make your own decisions about this work. It's not all wrong, if you have your wits about you and you filter the information, it could help fill your life with love and improve the life of your children. Janov is right, love is the most important thing is raising children, and he does a good job of defining love between an parent and child. On the other hand, if you take all of it to heart, and to the extreme, and then go on to destroy all relations with your family, create false memories, and spend decades trying to cry, scream and holding your breath in birth primals, it might just spoil your life. It could go either way, so think independently for yourself. Consider too, I may be wrong, so look at all the data with a critical eye, and draw on all areas of psychological research for clues.

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