Our Emotions – The Sole Creators of Every Word, Voice, Symbolic Image, Bodily Movement and Thought

Michael Cornwall, PhD
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The experience of hearing voices during madness, or during our “normal” and constant inner conversation that never stops, shows that we use words to attempt to express our underlying emotional state to ourselves and others.

We first and foremost are emotional beings, primate mammals that have evolved to have the ability in the first 2 years of life, to use speech to express our unbridled, pre-verbal emotions. We begin to express our emotions with words which we learn from our caregivers.

Our thoughts, which are made up of words/speech and symbolic visual imagery, express our second by second emotional state. Our second by second bodily movements also are expressing our emotions. Our dream images and dream speech express unconscious emotional states.

That is why sleep and dreaming are so important. Dreams process enormous amounts of emotional material without the restrictions of the conscious ego. The ego polices our emotions to meet the acceptable social expression of them when we are awake. When we are mad, the ego is swamped and our emotions run free. Unless they are captured and medicated into silent paralysis.

The universal emotional states of fear, rage, love, self hatred, lust, and grief, will always create inner words, even seemingly disembodied voices, and representative inner imagery that reflects these underlying emotional states. Every other emotion also creates words and imagery to express itself inside us. We need to express this emotional truth to those around us too. That is the hard part isn’t it?

An interesting experiment to try, is to hold an arm up off the bed as you are entering sleep. As you fall asleep you will start to hear inner conversations begin and to see imagery form that reflects the emotional tone of the spontaneously forming words. Because the ego is not in control, any kind of word formation can happen as can any imagery form. Fanciful, idiosyncratic dream life has begun. When your arm drops to the bed in sleep, the words and images will be able to be captured by your memory. Now ask yourself- what underlying emotional state was active that gave birth to the words and imagery?

I think that this experiment will show that there always is an emotion first, if we trace the words and images back to their source.

What could be more valuable self knowledge than to know what our emotional truth is, as it flows through us second by second?

As a therapist, hoping to compassionately help someone gain self knowledge, I first and foremost want to welcome whatever emotional truth that is trying to emerge and express itself for the person I am with. So I gladly receive their inner voices, bodily movements, speech/thoughts and imagery- and the sharing of their dreams.

In the medication-free madness sanctuaries I served at, that inner process of freely living the emotional truth that was erupting from deep in the core psyche and somatic body during madness, was seen as the powerful, completely natural  transformative experience that people in madness needed us to support. We tried to do that as if we were midwives during birthing.

I believe my madness 46 years ago, and the madness of those I served for 35 years,
was necessary because our emotional truths were frozen inside us and it took the initiatory mystery of madness to bring that locked up emotional truth to the surface where it burst forth. How I grieve for those whose madness processes were aborted before that healing, emotion fueled transformation could fully run its course.

So-called anti-psychotic medications are really anti-emotions medications. Isn’t it our unbridled emotions that bio-psychiatry works to contain?

Doesn’t our culture want psychiatry to make sure that the range of our emotions will fall within socially acceptable norms?

Let’s help each other get free, so we don’t repress, suppress, numb and kill our emotional truths. Unless I’m wrong, they are the only truths we really have.

52 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Michael:))

    Curious synchronicity? I just finished typing this exert from Jaak Panksepp’s “Affective Neuroscience – The Foundations of Human and Animal Emotions,” into my laptop.

    “Sleep, Arousal, and Mythmaking in the Brain:

    Shakespeare proposed one possible function of sleep when he suggested that it “knits up the raveled sleeve of care.” Each day our lives cycle through the master routines of sleeping, dreaming, and waking.

    Although we do not know for sure what the various sleep stages do for us, aside from alleviating tiredness, we do know about the brain mechanisms that generate these states.

    All of the executive structures are quite deep in the brain, some in the lower brain stem. To the best of our knowledge, however, the most influential mechanisms for slow wave sleep (SWS) are higher in the brain than the active waking mechanisms, while the executive mechanisms for REM sleep are the lowest of the three.

    Thus, we are forced to contemplate the strange possibility that the basic dream generators are more ancient in brain evolution that are the generators of our waking consciousness.

    The brain goes through various “state shifts” during both waking and sleep. Surprisingly, it has been more difficult for scientists to agree on the types of discrete states of waking consciousness than on those that occur during sleep. EEG clearly discriminates three global vigilance states of the nervous system–waking, SWS, and dreaming or REM sleep.

    Some people have also thought that dreaming is the crucible of madness. Many have suggested that schizophrenia reflects the release of dreaming processes into the waking state. Schizophrenics do not exhibit any more REM than normal folks, except during the evening before a “schizophrenic break,” when REM is in fact elevated.

    There seem to be two distinct worlds within our minds, like matter and antimatter, worlds that are often 180 degrees out of phase with each other.

    The electrical activity in the brain stem during dreaming is the mirror image of waking–the ability of certain brain areas to modulate the activity of others during waking changes from excitation to inhibition during REM.

    In other words, areas of the brain that facilitate behaviors in waking now inhibit those same behaviors.

    Many believe that if we understand this topsy-turvy reversal of the ruling potentials in the brain, we will better understand the nature of everyday mental realities, as well as the nature of minds that are overcome by madness.

    Perhaps what is now the REM state was the original form of waking consciousness in early brain evolution, when “emotionality” was more important than reason in the competition for resources.”

    When I go through a spontaneous shift into the early phase of mania, it builds to that common experience of a dream like state, although while awake.

    What I think it enables is a “container” for the deeply unconscious “fear – horror” of a birth trauma, which had conditioned my nervous system, with a default activity of avoidance.

    Interestingly, although the brain & nervous systems continue to mature with environmental experience, over the first three years of life. The amygdala, which is the “smoke alarm,” for fear & danger, is online at birth.

    During my periods of euphoric psychosis, I dream while awake? The Siren does in indeed sing, during these heightened states of “powerful transformative experience.” Mind you, if all words are metaphors for our “hidden” processes, she has been doing it all along, in the arts and some amazing song lyrics.

    Maybe its a right-brain to left-brain thing? Or as this brilliant paper suggests, maybe its a whole body/brain thing;

    “A discernible communication between the “Self” and the “I” is only possible during the dreaming and hallucinatory states, whether drug-induced or “natural.”

    During the ”I”-state of daily routine, the outside world is experienced as separate from oneself, and this may be a reflection of the greater freedom (that is, separateness or independence) of cortical interpretation from subcortical activity.

    With increasing ergotropic (sympathetic nervous system) and trophotropic (parasympathetic nervous system) arousal, however, this separateness gradually disappears, apparently because in the “Self”-state of ecstasy and samadhi, cortical and subcortical activity are indistinguishably integrated.

    This unity is reflected in the experience of Oneness with everything, a Oneness with the universe that is oneself.”

    _Roland Fischer, “A Cartography of the Ecstatic and Meditative States,” http://wisebrain.org/papers/MapofMedEcstaticStates.pdf

    “The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe to match your nature with Nature.” _Joseph Campbell.

    “If you want to change the world, you have to change the metaphor.” _Joseph Campbell.

    Perhaps the trick is to feel the slight of hand rationalization that stands in denial of our instinctual motivation. The “need” to share a consensus sense of “I think therefore I am,” state of belonging? Do we deny a cosmic soul within, to gain the support & protection of group think? Your instinctual/intellect “I” is not your deeper self/soul which you can only access through a “felt” awareness of being, which the mind “observes.” When you change your word metaphors to “chemical” it helps to feel the Universe within & the flow of being “in” the moment?

  2. Thank you, as always, for this, Michael. It may be reasonable to consider the role of our REACTIONS to heightened emotive states and the effects of stress hormones in affecting our processing of emotional experiences, and thus the direction that they may take. It seems that many are not equipped (due to paucity of cultural information or understanding in regard to vital emotionality) to conceptualize the emotive process as something natural, normal, and healthy. Further, trauma can create emotional associations that are fraught with shame, fear, avoidance, and resistance.

    I appreciate this sentence, “How I grieve for those whose madness processes were aborted before that healing, emotion fueled transformation could fully run its course.” In honoring those whose paths to fully realized self have been (often brutally) abrupted, I try to remember all those that are transforming right now (even as I write this) and all those who have yet to face their own emotional gauntlets, but who someday will. I hope they find, within themselves and within the world, whatever it is that they need to support them in their own unique emotive process.

    …and, yes, I do believe that anti-psychotics are designed/intended to blunt our emotional experiences, which seems to me to be a violation of our most basic human right…to feel what it is that we feel…

    Great topic and dialogue. I appreciate David’s provision of info./perspective on the workings of the brain as they pertain to the workings of the heart and mind. Hope everyone has great day, thinking and feeling in the world.

  3. I believe that most state hospital have revolving doors these days because the dis-ease that causes psychosis never gets addressed or resolved. People never get the chance to deal with whatever it is in their experiences which needs tending to. The toxic drugs do not help, they only tranqualize and hide what needs to be dealt with. I think this is why places like where you worked and Soteria House were successful; they listened to peoples’ stories and dealt with the dis-ease because they were not afraid of it. People today are very uncomfortable with dis-ease; this is one reason why most people in America run to the doctor for a “pill” when they don’t want to deal with anything difficult or messy in their lives. I believe that many psychiatrists are very afraid of emotions and dis-ease and this is why they drug people into oblivion. If they actually worked and did talk therapy, they would have to roll their sleeves up, get right down there in the nitty-gritty, and have to get their hands “dirty” in all of that dis-ease, disconnect, and huge emotions. That is much too powerful for them to look at because it often stirs up some of their own dis-ease, and they sure don’t want to have to deal with that!

  4. Michael,
    Thank you once again.
    2 yrs ago a great friend passed from a heart attack at a premature age. He’d confided in me that he always felt like he’d been stillborn when he entered his “high arousal” state as discussed by John Weir Perry in the book you’d reccommended to me. That is, the process or his “journey” never completed into maturation, as the sedatives that were prescribed prevented the process you describe (that is also described in the work of Perry,Laing, Groff).

    Your comment about midwives is very fitting as i feel it can apply to some of us who act as loving and nurturing facilitators..

    Thank you again.
    -Peter G in Boston

  5. Maybe I’m misunderstanding the article, but I have a question: Are we then to let our emotions rule? I think not – our emotions definitely mean something, and we do need to process them – but we certainly cannot allow our thoughts and actions to be determined by our emotions. We can change those thoughts and minimize emotions that drag us down by dealing with them responsibly. I also believe the reverse of what the article states – it is our thoughts that determine our emotions.

  6. Michael,

    Re: “constant inner conversation that never stops”

    So, I suppose everyone (to some extent) “hears voices”?

    Maybe the “mentally ill” are not so different after all…
    And should be treated as a equal human beings?

    Careful.
    You’ll put conventional bio-psychiatrists outta buiness.

    Another great post!
    Thank you, sir!

    Duane
    discoverandrecover.wordpress.com/recovery

    • In response to my wall promotion of Michael’s “Jung’s first dream post.

      “Michael Cornwall, I’m humbled by your words David as i have looked to your voice for the clear understanding of madness that is beyond compare.
      April 27 at 10:10pm”

      So tell me young Mr Ross,at first glance subjective assumptions can be deceiving, No?

      If you look more carefully, you may see that I’m trying to enhance Michael’s position, not detract from it?

      Good friends will tell you what you don’t necessarily want hear, not just play sycophantic games with you? Its the nature of “honest debate.”

  7. Michael,

    Thank you for another provocative post. The conversations that are sparked by your observations always add to an even richer exploration of the essential question: what is madness (and how can it transform us?).

    The layering of mindfulness, somatic and attachment theory with Jungian dream work is intriguing and makes me wonder how thin the boundaries are between madness, insight and transcendence (when we are blessed with loving guides who can help us find safe passage through this unfamiliar and, at times, terrifying inner landscape).

    In my own mindfulness practice, I have occasionally been able to still and concentrate my mind enough to observe the arising of thought formations – those pre-verbal emotional and physical stirrings that give rise to stories, internal monologues and well-worn but limiting thought patterns. On those rare occasions when I let sensations arise and dissipate without trying to assign meaning to them, it is amazing how much space there is to “feel” my emotions without being engulfed by them. Observing emotions in the body has also very helpful for slowing reactivity and opening to new ways of viewing myself and the world.

    Although I know madness can be a powerful teacher, I still find it difficult to stay present for others who are grappling with their own process – particularly when it is someone I love.

    What has helped you strengthen your ability to serve as a spiritual midwife for so many years?

  8. Thanks for this blog. I totally agree with you. Psychosis or an altered state of consciousness needs to be explored and supported to its resolution. I have taught a seminar called Altered States Communication. Our Dr’s and nurses have no skills or strategies to assist a person in this state. I am beginning a lobby in Saskatchewan Canada to create an Altered States Research Recovery and Learning Lab so we can explore this phenomenon and learn skills to respectfully support people in this state. Supporting people (myself included) is complex and we must become creative and innovative in keeping the person, their family and the community at large safe during the process.

  9. Hi Michael, this is an interesting view, and I agree with a lot of what you said, but I can neither embrace the premise nor the conclusion on several grounds:
    – cognition, worldview, perception, emotions, language are all inter-dependent. While emotions affect everything, including our worldview perception, our cognition, our language, our behavior, our volition, the same can be said for cognition, worldview, perception and language. Each aspect of the human brain influences the regulation of our emotions, as well as all other aspects. In my opinion, focusing on emotions as the most important feature of our brains is kind of arbitrary, because no model of human beings based on a chain of causality with a specific root-cause will be universal. I think any high-level conceptual model of the human being has to look more like a complex imbrication of feedback loops (or a complex ecosystem, or a self-organizing network).
    – different individuals are not just different on the expression of emotions, but on their internal intensity. Some people are more analytical, some people are more emotional. What you say might be relatively true for some people, but might not make sense for others, unless you redefine the term “emotions” from a different way that the one present in dictionaries.
    – we know that too few emotions, as well as high-expressed emotions are a driver of low mental health and suffering in families. Maintaining a balance between the different features of our mind seems the most healthy way of interacting with ourselves and others. Paying too little or too much attention to emotions is dangerous.
    – I am afraid I don’t understand what you mean by “emotional truths”. I agree that emotions are the main driver for many things, including both delusional obsessions and the quest for truth-seeking, I agree on its central role in creativity or motivation, but talking about “emotional truths” as being the main truth is playing with words in a way that seems to me an attack on either language or reality.

  10. Michael,

    I noticed you recently did a radio interview with Dr. Peter Breggin.

    The next time you see him, please give him a hug for me, and tell him I will always consider him to be not only the “conscience of psychiatry”, but the “HEART of psychiatry” as well.

    Both Breggin and you are just the best!
    Thank you for everyting both of you do!

    Duane

  11. What is affect/emotion? The question, “what the hell is an affect?” Set me of on a five year journey to uncover and understand the organic nature of my Bipolar type 1 “affective” disorder.

    Within a week of stumbling on Allan N Schore’s “Affect Dysregulation & Disorders of the Self,” my body and its (homeostatic) feedback systems, as much as my brain became a major interest. Yet the commercially funded research we notice in the mainstream media is always focused on brain research alone?

    Is there a cultural need of denying the raw power & the contagious affect of emotion, in our denial of the body’s role in mental anguish, our so-called mental illnesses? Is such a denial, part of the reason we “prefer” to focus on the brain, in our mechanically minded assumptions about mental distress?

    How many in our survivor & recovery community have heard of Sylvan Tomkins, the father of affect theory? If not, is that because we get lost in HEADLINE focused, foreground attention, and don’t access a wealth of science research in the background? Why are all the great investigators of somatic experience and a holistic approach routinely ignored?

    “INNATE AFFECT/EMOTION & SOCIETY:

    Because the free expression of innate affect is extremely contagious and because these are very powerful phenomena, all societies, in varying degrees, exercise substantial control over the free expression of the cry of affect. No societies encourage or permit each individual to cry out i.e, rage or excitement, or distress or terror wherever and whenever they wish. Very early on, strict control over affect expression is instituted and such control is exerted particularly over the voice, whether used in speech or in direct affect expression.

    If all societies suppress the free vocalization of affect, what is it that is being experienced as affect? It is what I have called backed-up affect, it can be seen in children trying to suppress laughter by swallowing a snicker, or by a stiff upper lip when trying not to cry or by tightening the jaw to suppress anger. In all these cases, one is holding one’s breathe as part of the technique of suppressing the vocalization of affect/emotion.

    We do not know what are the biological and psychological prices of such suppression of the innate affective response. It seems at the very least that substantial psychosomatic disease might be one of the prices of such systemic suppression and transformation of the innate affective responses.

    Further there could be a permanent elevation of blood pressure as a consequence of suppressed rage, which would have a much longer duration than an innate momentary flash of expressed anger.

    Even the least severe suppression of the vocalization of affect must result in some bleaching of the experience of affect and therefore impoverish the quality of life. It must also produce some ambiguity about what affect feels like, since so much of the adult’s affective life represents at the very least, a transformation of the affective response, rather than the simpler, more direct, and briefer innate affect.

    With anger the matter is further confused, because of the danger represented by this affect and enormous societal concern about the socialization of anger, what is typically seen and thought to be innate is actually backed-up. The appearance of the backed-up, the “simulated,” and the innate is by no means the same.

    Details of the difference in socialization concern, differences in tolerance or intolerance of the several primary human affects – excitement, enjoyment, surprise, distress, contempt, shame, fear and anger – which in turn determine how positively or how negatively a human being learns to feel about themselves and about other human beings.

    Such learning will also determine their general posture towards the entire ideological domain.“

    Exerts from “Exploring Affect,” (1995) by Sylvan Tomkins.

    ****************

    Do we really “know” how we function at an “unconscious” affect/emotion level? Is there authoritive science research that could sway psychiatric understanding, away from pharma funded, “drug” oriented, research? Are there people out there like Allan N Schore & Stephen Porges, that we never bother to access, because we have been hurt by “science?”

    “It is well established that the transfer of emotional information is intensified in resonant contexts. At the moment when a system is tuned at the resonant frequency it becomes synchronized – vitalized.

    Sustained facial gazing mediates the most intense form of interpersonal communication. Eye to eye contact gives non-verbal advanced notice of the other. The temporal structure of gaze, the most immediate and purest form of inter-relation, provides clues to the readiness or capacity to receive and transmit social AFFECT. (capitals mine)

    Face to face transactions may be registered in long term memory as inceptive ‘flash bulb’ memories. Flashbulb memories occur during high arousal states and are an important adaptive for survival.

    Mirroring Gaze Transactions and the Dyadic Amplification of Positive Affect:
    Dyadic mirroring gaze transactions thus induce a symbiotic, physiobiologically attuned affect amplifying merger state, in which a match occurs between the expression of rewarding arousal.

    This process of interpersonal fusion generates dynamic “vitality affects.”

    “A nine month old girl becomes very excited about a toy and reaches for it. As she grabs it, she lets out an exuberant ‘aaah!’ and looks back at her mother. Her mother looks back, scrunches up her shoulders, and performs a terrific shimmy with her upper body, like a go-go dancer. The shimmy lasts about as long as her daughters ‘aaah’ but is equally excited, joyful, and intense.”

    Exerts from “Affect Regulation and the Origin of the Self,” by Allan N Schore.

    The spontaneous, “unsuppressed” expression of affect/emotion in the scene between mother & daughter, is stimulated “unconsciously,” and the pure joy “acted out” is nature & her beauty personified.

    We are really thrilled when we see “nature” acted out in this way, yet when we see nature’s negative expression we get “distressed,” the observer, as well as the sufferer. We move to shut it down because it upsets us.

    Has there been an historical need to deny “emotion,” in order to suppress its capacity to create “chaos,” because raw affect/emotion, is contagious? Is it a societal suppression of our own nature, which blocks an honest and open approach to sufferers of mental anguish?

    Is it our own mechanically minded “cause & effect” logic, that now needs up-dating to a systems approach, which is not so “black & white,” as “us & them?” Allan Schore, wants to take the profession back to its roots in psychoanalysis, by using new cutting edge science to make understanding the human soul, what its always been. An ART form?

    http://www.amazon.com/Science-Psychotherapy-Norton-Interpersonal-Neurobiology/dp/0393706648/

  12. “MODERN EDUCATION & ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT COGNITION:

    This is the most recent instance in history of favouring man’s ‘reason’ as his distinctive glory. Although Genesis equated ’knowing’ with carnal knowledge, that fateful loss of innocence that exiled him from the Garden of Eden, in both theological and secular thought reason has been glorified as the divine spark in man. This perennial idealisation of the cognitive function has prejudged its definition.

    If human beings share sensory and motor equipment as well as drives and passions with other animals, and if reason is represented as both the distinctive and most valued function in man, then the cognitive aspects of the sensory and motor functions are denied by definition. Further, ‘irrationality’ is thereby also denied to be inherently cognitive.

    ‘Superstition’ and mysticism are prejudged to be different from cognition rather than to be special cases of knowing. In the extreme derivative of such idealisation, even science would fail to meet the criterion of true cognition, in-so-much as today’s science can be tomorrow’s superstition. In some theologies just this inference was drawn so that only God knew truly and fully.

    Yet if all cognitive theorists would resonate with Socrates dictum that an unexamined life is not worth living, they would part company as soon as ‘examination’ was scrutinised more closely. Are daydreaming and thinking equally ‘cognitive’ ‘inner’ processes that had to be both objectified and OPERATIONALIZED?” (capitals are for my existential, warrior brother, Michael Cornwall.}

    Ideology and Affect/Emotion:

    Now let me introduce the concepts of ideo-affective postures, ideological postures and ideo-affective resonance. (1) By ideo-affective postures I mean any loosely organized set of feelings and ideas about feelings. (2) By ideological postures I refer to any “highly organized” and articulate set of ideas about anything. A generally tolerant or permissive attitude would be an instance of an ideo-affective posture, whereas a progressive or democratic political position would be an example of an ideological posture.

    (3) By ideo-affective resonance we mean the engagement of the loosely organized beliefs and feelings by ideology, when the ideo-affective postures are sufficiently similar to the ideological posture, so that they reinforce and strengthen each other.

    Ideo-affective resonance to ideology is a love affair of a loosely organized set of feelings and ideas about feelings with a highly organized and articulate set of ideas about anything. As in the case of a love affair the fit need not be perfect, so long as there is sufficient similarity between what the individual thinks and feels is desirable, to set the vibrations between the two entities into sympathetic resonance.

    Exerts from “Exploring Affect,” (1995) by Sylvan Tomkins.

  13. Written in memory of Dr John Weir Perry’s “when the dream becomes real,” and the compassion of Diabasis.

    SENSITIVITY-EXISTENTIAL ISOLATION & PSYCHOSIS:

    “If the human race survives, future men will, I suspect, look back on our enlightened epoch as a veritable Age of Darkness… They will see that what was considered ‘schizophrenic’ was one of the forms in which, often through quite ordinary people, the light began to break into our all-too-closed minds.” _R.D. Laing.

    “Who experiences a “schizophrenic break”?
    Well, there’s a lot of controversy about this! There is a constitutional element, which is often interpreted as a “genotype of pathology”, but this depends on how you see it. I see it as a genotype of sensitivity! Among adolescent siblings in a family, for example, it’s usually the most sensitive one who’s going to catch it.

    So it starts with a feeling of isolation…
    “Yes. Now the symbolic expression of this is falling into a death – not only a death state, but also a death space – the “afterlife,” the “realm of the ancestors,” the “land of the dead,” the “spirit world.” The common experience here is for the person to look about and think that half the people around him are dead too. While in this condition, it’s very hard for one to tell if one is really alive or not.” _John Wier Perry.

    “Humans have three principal defense strategies—fight, flight, and freeze. The Polyvagal Theory describes three developmental stages of a mammal’s autonomic nervous system: Immobilization, mobilization, and social communication or social engagement. Faulty neuroception might lie at the root of several psychiatric disorders, including autism, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, depression, and Reactive Attachment Disorder. We are familiar with fight and flight behaviors, but know less about the defense strategy of immobilization, or freezing. This strategy, shared with early vertebrates, is often expressed in mammals as “DEATH FEIGNING.” (capitals mine) _Stephen Porges.

    “Right away at the beginning, the death experience is accompanied by the feeling that you’ve gone back to the beginning of time. This involves a regression, a return to the state of infancy in one’s personal life history. But hand in hand with this is the feeling of slipping back into the world of the primordial parents, into a Garden of Eden. For example, it’s a very common experience to feel one is the child of Adam and Eve, say, at the beginning of time. This is very symbolic, obviously. It’s pretty much a representation of the psyche at the start of one’s individual career after birth.” _John Wier Perry.

    Metaphorically speaking, Adam & Eve, would be the Sun & Earth, with the world taken from Adam’s rib? Can we really have any “cognitive” concept of what our nervous system is “aware” of, pre & post birth. What unconscious level of awareness is Stephen Porges “neuroception” referring to? Consider Roland Fischer’s suggestion about what we may once have “known” yet need to forget in our social/survival mode of functioning?

    Space and Increasing Hyper and Hypoarousal:
    “Although the newborn infant’s only reality, in the beginning, is his CNS activity, he soon learns, by bumping into things, to erect a corresponding model “out there.” Ultimately, his forgetting that his CNS activity had been the only reality will be taken by society as proof of his maturity, and he will be ready to conduct his life “out there” in (container) space and (chronological) time.” _ Roland Fischer.

    Are we not composed of star dust & all those chemical elements?

    Is the typical “self-referential” ideation in a “psychotic break” a rationalized “hyper-sensitivity” to nature & all that lies beyond Eve’s protective atmosphere? A sensitivity which is non-verbal, non-cognitive and is a more refined integration of all five physical senses, when we fall beneath our normal nervous system orientation of “social engagement.” An overwhelmingly “unconsciously” stimulated experience, “rationalized” by the mind as “the TV is sending out hidden messages, just for me?”

    Stephen Porges groundbreaking discovery of a third branch of our autonomic nervous system, shows our unconscious orienting responses are like two different operating systems, to use a computer analogy. (1) Social Engagement, an evolved nervous system responsiveness “innervated” by the feedback signals of head & facial muscles, with their vagal control over the heart. (2) Survival Orientation, an evolved nervous system responsiveness, shared with all other mammals and heightened due to our “sensitive skin,” which under hyper-vigilant threat attains a higher “resonance,” with background sensory information.

    Consider Sylvan Tomkins ideas about affect/emotion and our sensitive skin;
    “The face appears to me to be the central site of affect/emotion responses and their feedback., but I have come to regard the skin, in general, and the skin of the face in particular, as of the greatest importance in producing the feel of affect/emotion. Three of the most compelling states to which the human being is vulnerable arise on the surface of the skin. Torture via skin stimulation has been used for centuries to shape and compel human beings to act against their own deepest wishes and values. Sexual seduction via skin stimulation has also prompted human beings to violate their own wishes and values. Fatigue to the point of extreme sleepiness appears to be localized in the skin surrounding the eyes.” _Sylvan Tomkins.

    ******************

    SYSTEMS THEORY is now being used to understand the complex non-linear feedback systems which integrate our human experience, particularly the early maturation of brain and nervous systems, via environmental feedback. It is becoming increasingly clear that human inter-subjectivity, is more resonant affect/emotion than left-brained linguistics and dialogue.

    Consider Allan Schore’s understanding of our non-linear bio-metabolic-energy transformations, which turn matter into “meta” within the human mind;
    “In physics a property of resonance is sympathetic vibration, the tendency of one resonance system to enlarge & augment through matching the resonance frequency pattern of another resonance system.

    In contemporary bioenergetic theory, information is conceived of as ’a special kind of energy required for the work of establishing biological order’. The processing of all forms of information by the brain, including that embedded in internal representations, occur through transformations of metabolic energy.

    The extraordinary power of the concept of energy transformations derives from the fact that these fundamental phenomena occur on each and every level of living systems, from the molecular to the societal.

    The growing postnatal brain, the physical matrix of the emerging human mind, is supplied with a continuous supply of energy from metabolic processes. A fundamental tenant of this theory states that the assembly of complex systems occurs under conditions of thermodynamic non-equilibrium (a directed flow of energy).

    This energy is utilized to facilitate the cooperativity of simpler sub-system components into a hierarchically-structured complex system that expresses the emergent functions of organizing and maintaining stability.

    Bioenergetic conceptualizations thus need to be implanted into the central core of psychoanalytic and psychological theory, a position they now occupy in physics, chemistry, and biology. Thermodynamics are not only the essence of biodynamic, they are also the essence of neurodynamics, and therefore of psychodynamics.” _Allan N Schore.

    ****************

    If the word “evolution” is to make sense on a felt level of experience, where life actually occurs, should we not consider that it is the body, its five physical senses and the motor act of orienting responses, which informs the subjective awareness of the human/animal mind? Consider;

    “My belief is in the blood and flesh as being wiser than the intellect. The body-unconscious is where life bubbles up in us. It is how we know that we are alive, alive to the depths of our souls and in touch somewhere with the vivid reaches of the cosmos” _D. H. Lawrence.

    “The motor act is the cradle of the mind – The capacity to anticipate and predict movement, is the basis of what consciousness is all about” _Sir Charles Sherrington.

    “The brain is waking and with it the mind is returning. Its as if the Milky Way entered upon some cosmic dance. Swiftly the head-mass becomes some enchanted loom, where millions of flushing shuttles weave a dissolving pattern, always a meaningful pattern, though never an abiding one: A shifting harmony of sub-patterns.” _Sir Charles Sherrington.

    **********************

    In Buddhist art, one must find the stillness within, which allows the movement and thought bubbles of cosmic inspiration to flow. Is there so much more to hallucination, delusion and psychosis than meets our “pathologizing” and fearfully judgmental eyes?

    Consider my recent posts as five weeks of “psychosis” peaked with these “subjective” interpretations;

    “Madness? An attachment awareness of the divine, a sense of eternity in a single moment.

    Mania? I fall out of my braced muscular defense which habitually miss-regulated and thwarted my need of human attachment, and in the spontaneous shift in physiological state, sensory freedom reigns.

    I’m suddenly born again to an awareness of so much, as if all five senses have come back online, after being stuck in the freeze mode of the post trauma trap. In my body, I’m suddenly so alive.

    The positive states of interest, excitement & joy resume their biological process and begin to reorganize my brain stem neural networks to mediate a free and full engagement with the experience of life.

    So enraptured by this spontaneous shift towards positive affect/emotion experience, I subjectively feed this new physiological state of being with emotive scenarios of passion, glory and wonder.

    I’m so overjoyed I can’t still my mind, and its role in my self-nurture during long periods of isolation, automatically continues and I overshoot the runway of my new physiological approach to the experience of life.

    Its natural intent, as the non-linear biological system, which is the organism known as David Bates, is miss-perceived by subjectivity, and the physiological need to BE in the here and now moment, is thwarted.

    Thwarted because I confuse my minds sense of “I” with the deeper consciousness of the sensate experience of the body. The subtle sensations, sensory vibrations and arising images that resonate in an attunement/attachment connection, as that oceanic feeling of oneness, so common to the manic/mystic experience.

    Attachment, Separation & Loss, is perhaps the ultimate challenge to deepening awareness, for a sentient species.”

    **************

    “The ascension is not a rising to “above” it’s a Fall, just as its always been, when you seek awareness of the Universe within, & truly feel the presence of this Eternal Now. In Eastern mysticism, such experience is known as a Kundalini awakening, or in the “stillness” of the great Prince, Buddha being?

    Is it time to re-address the tribal metaphors of life’s meaning, to a species understanding? In a Universe of 96% dark matter/energy. Life is “The Resurrection.” That great symbol of sacrifice we see in Christ on the Cross, as all the Light Matter Energy, sacrificed to create your life? How does the Universe become Eternal? By evolving into a form which can act upon itself, YOU & your children’s, children’s children, forever & ever, Amen! Or whatever metaphor of gratitude you use.”

    Perhaps a culmination of a 32 year journey with classic manic-depression & its resolution as a felt awareness of madness, in my sensitive human animal nature, “acting out?” Or complete B.S. Although there is five years of research about my body/brain & its homeostatic feedback systems, to complement these in-sane statements. Yet, are we not, children of the light?

    When we make the effort to see the bigger picture, can we understand and accept that science & spirituality are converging in this 21st century A.D. Because this is how it happens, as the Universe within, dreams itself awake? In the strange notion of an “Eternal Now” it already did, and we’re just remembering it ALL?

    “The notion of this universe, its heavens, hells, and everything within it, as a great dream dreamed by a single being in which all the dream characters are dreaming too, has in India enchanted and shaped the entire civilization.

    The ultimate dreamer is Vishnu floating on the cosmic Milky Ocean, couched upon the coils of the abyssal serpent Ananta, the meaning of whose name is Unending. In the foreground stand the five Pandava brothers, heroes of the epic Mahabharata, with Draupadi, their wife: allegorically, she is the mind and they are the five senses.

    They are those whom the dream is dreaming. Eyes open, ready and willing to fight, the youths address themselves to this world of light in which we stand regarding them, where objects appear to be distinct from each other, and an Aristotelian logic prevails, and A is not not-A. Behind them a dream-door has opened, however, to an inward, backward dimension where a vision emerges against darkness…” _Joseph Campbell.

    “I always feel uncomfortable when people speak about ordinary mortals because I’ve never met an ordinary man, woman or child.” _Joseph Campbell.

  14. What a beautiful, brilliant exchange in the Comments section of this article.

    Thank you Michael for your writing, and for allowing an open space for such great discussion to come out. Thanks David, if you ever read this, for your wonderful quotes and observation. This feels like home.

    • Hi knaps,

      I don’t know if the author or any of the commenters will see your reply, but I did. 🙂 I have also commented on older posts/articles, usually they pop up in the “Best of MIA” section, and wondered whether they’d be seen. I noticed yours in the “Recent Comments” section and intend to read the article above, but had to chuckle seeing my own reflection in “if you ever read this,” and “this feels like home.”

      -LavenderSage

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