To determine who should get credit for the discovery of the primal process depends on how much weight is given to the work of predecessors. Without the existence of the gasoline engine the Wright brothers would not have been able to invent the airplane. Thomas Edison could not have invented the electric light without using that ancient invention, glass. Recognition as a discoverer of a new process or invention does not mean that the inventor must be completely original. All discoverers must stand on the shoulders of their predecessors.
The progress of any science is measured by the addition to its body of knowledge after it has survived scientific testing and scrutiny. Contributions of predecessors are often used when they are in accordance with the new model being developed and does not detract from the contributions of an innovator.
Gleanings of the primal premise that infantile, and early childhood deprivations can result in neurosis can be found in hundreds of references before Janov and even before Freud, but it was not until Janov, S. Grof and Frank Lake that we had the data and proof to back up the theories of their predecessors. They proved others correct when they discovered a method by which mentally ill patients could relive their traumas totally and become less neurotic in the process.
To proclaim primal therapy as nothing more than rediscovered early Freud reveals an ignorance of the history of psychology or is a deliberate attempt to distort the truth. There is sufficient documentation to show that Breuer and Freud merely used hypnosis coupled with a cathartic form of expressive therapy to help their neurotic patients. A reading of Studies in Hysteria (1895) shows that primal therapy was not being used by them.
Catharsis was abandoned in psychotherapy by Freud because its use did not lend itself to an understanding of the origins of symptoms and because symptom relief was only temporary. In primal therapy the understanding of symptom origins is an automatic process. This shows that under Freud's ministrations resolving regressions were not occuring.
But the most persuasive argument of all is when one asks the question of how could Freud have abandoned an effective therapy as primal to begin practicing an ineffective therapy such as psychoanalysis? Primal therapy works. If Freud had discovered and used primal therapy, he would not have abandoned it.
Some critics of Janov contend that the idea of birth trauma of Otto Rank, (The Trauma of Birth, 1924) is antecedent to Janov's discovery of the birth primal. I had always considered Rank's book is merely a boring narrative of how many, through the ages, has recognized the significance of birth and that his work did not adequately relate to reliving traumatic births and instead emphasized a psychoanalytic infantile separation anxiety concept. And yet, and yet,--