LOS ANGELES — Arthur Janov, a psychotherapist whose ‘‘primal therapy’’ had celebrities screaming to release their childhood traumas and spawned a best-selling book in the 1970s, died Oct. 1 at his Malibu home from respiratory arrest following a stroke, said his wife, France. He was 93.
Dr. Janov, a clinical psychologist, became an international celebrity with his idea that adults repressed childhood traumas, making them neurotic and leading to problems such as mood disorders, drug addiction, and even epilepsy.
He believed that what he termed ‘‘Primal Pain’’ could extend as far as birth.
‘‘Coming close to death at birth or feeling unloved as a child are examples of such Pain,’’ he wrote.
‘‘When the Pain is too much, it is repressed and stored away. When enough unresolved Pain has occurred, we lose access to your feelings and become neurotic,’’ he wrote. ‘‘The number one killer in the world today is not cancer or heart disease, it is repression.’’
His method involved having people relive their traumatic memories by ‘‘regressing’’ to infancy or childhood in order to confront and exorcise their demons. His Southern California center provided props such as cribs and stuffed animals. Patients, including such celebrities as John Lennon, Yoko Ono, and James Earl Jones, would scream or shout as any pent-up traumas were revealed.
‘‘Once you feel it, people just become themselves,’’ his wife said. ‘‘People don’t need the drugs, the smoking, the acting out . . . not to feel that pain.’’
Dr. Janov contended that the therapy could cure everything from stuttering to drug addiction to epilepsy.