“Primal Therapy: The Cure for Neurosis” is a book written by Doctor Arthur Janov, in which he describes his experience with his first patients, during 1967/68, after he discovered and developed the Primal Therapy. Doctor Janov stated that he’s been inspired by Sigmund Freud’s early works and that the process he elaborated had a 100% cure rate.
His medical hypothesis was that psychological problems are generated by trauma during early childhood and that birth is simply the first one of them. These traumatic occurrences, then, can be re-experienced and emotionally discharged by the act of screaming.
The Primal Therapy’s basis can be explained by a simple scheme:
NEED → PAIN → REPRESSION.
To resume its main ideas, we’ve been born with certain needs and, when those needs are not met, we start experiencing a state of frustration and we are in pain: when we feel too much pain, the repression phase starts. With the Primal Therapy, each individual can release that repressed pain, avoiding all those problems related to its constraint, such as rage, anxiety or depression.
The book became popular and inspired other therapists to offer similar therapies and John Lennon, Yoko Ono and Steve Jobs, among others, adhered to the Movement. Albert Goldman, writing “The Lives of John Lennon” in 1988, stated that Doctor Janov sent some copies of his book to celebrities, Lennon among others, and that the musician, subsequently, wanted to try the Primal Therapy, and this is why he moved with his wife to California to join him.
During 1970, Lennon gave an interview to Jann Wenner for the Rolling Stone Magazine, in which he explained the important role of Yoko Ono and Arthur Janov’s Primal Scream technique in that self-revelation’s phase of his life: in support to his statements, the interview coincided with the release of his most important solo-record “John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band”.
It seems that Doctor Janov helped Lennon to deal with his childhood-related problems and to get deeper in touch with that damaged and injured little boy who had guided many of the musician’s actions in his past and the whole experience has been mirrored by the songs contained by the “Plastic Ono Band” album, as a testimony released by that inner child himself and the adult he became.
John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, 1970, Apple Records, London. Cover Image ©Daniel Richter.
Lennon himself called his work “The first primal album” (Lennon, 1970) and it’s important to take in consideration its Ono’s version “Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band”, due to the fact that the two albums are almost identical, even in their covers, and they have been recorded and released at the same time. As John Lennon said about the two versions during an interview for Playboy, “In Yoko’s, she’s leaning back on me; in mine, I’m leaning on her” (Lennon, 1980).
Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band, 1970, Apple Records, London. Cover Image ©Daniel Richter.
Without Yoko Ono there would have been no Janov, without Janov there would have been no Primal Album. Yoko Ono was Lennon’s muse and guide: she was the one who inspired him with her art and personality and the one who pushed him to discover his true self and find out who he really wanted to be, as individual and as artist. As Jeremy Harding pointed out in his article for The Guardian, “The drift was emphatically unexperimental, autobiographical and expressive of John Himself. There simply was no interest in form as anything other than a means to that end” (Harding, 2000).
Both versions of the Plastic Ono Band albums are an inspiration to my practice, due to the fact that, since the very beginning, I intended to undertake a similar path by asking some musicians and composers to scream in music, creating a video with a proper music score out of the photographic portraits that depict the whole screaming process, currently contained by contact sheets.
As previously said and written, I think that we express ourselves and we perceive negative emotions in very different ways, and so it would be interesting proceeding with the collaboration with other artists to see how they would interpret my work and how they would face other individuals’ negativity, empathizing with them.
“I can hear you now – Process, Contact sheet 1, Horizontal version” ©Dayana Marconi 2016. Copyright for this gallery photo belongs solely to Dayana Marconi. Images may not be downloaded without her permission.
My artistic research, compared with the one made by Lennon and Ono during the 1970s, is completely different, but as Yoko Ono’s album mirrored John Lennon’s work (and back), in my project different types of art mirror each other, while the emotions expressed by sitters and interpreted by the photographer have the same function in relation to viewers’ ones.
Of course, I am more focused on the photographic image and other different forms of art are used as reinforcement to better clarify a concept and the different interpretations that can be given to photographs portraying the same emotional process.
While observing a contact sheet, viewers maybe wouldn’t immediately imagine a video created with those stills, and so it would be a further step in empathising not only with the photographed subject, but with the artistic language itself. If they start wondering “What’s next? What can be done more with those images?”, maybe they will face the whole path with the same attitude. Seeing that a scream, then, can be produced not only by a voice but also in music, maybe they will start imagining what could be done differently or what their musical interpretation would have been in that specific case. Involving the audience at different levels, I think, it would allow to enhance not only empathy, which is necessary to interpret and analyse the presented subject matter, but also to push individuals to face and constructively discuss topics often considered as socially unacceptable or even denied.
Goldman Albert, The Lives of John Lennon, 1988, William Morrow and Co., New York.
Harding Jeremy, The Dream is over: Lennon in search of Himself on The Guardian, December 2000 https://www.theguardian.com/music/2000/dec/21/thebeatles.johnlennon
Janov Arthur Dr., The Primal Scream. Primal Therapy: The Cure for Neurosis, 1970, Dell, United States.
Lennon John, Davis Hunter, The John Lennon Letters: Edited and with an Introduction by Hunter Davies, 2012, Hachette Book Group, London.
Lennon John, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, Released on 11 December 1970, Apple Records, London.
Ono Yoko, Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band, Released on 11 December 1970, Apple Records, London.
Sheff David, Playboy Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono, published in January 1981 issue, interviewed by David Sheff, September 1980. ©1981 Playboy Press. Abstract on The Beatles Ultimate Experience website http://www.beatlesinterviews.org/db1980.jlpb.beatles.html