The Feeling of What Happens:  Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness

Harcourt Brace & Company


Antonio Damasio




“…the sense of self and…the transition from innocence and ignorance to knowingness and selfness.  My specific goal is to consider the biological circumstances that permit this critical transition.  (Damasio/FWH/4)”

This is what I did not go through prior to age 18, the transition from innocence and ignorance to knowingness and selfness.

“Although I do not see consciousness as he pinnacle of biological evolution, I see it as a turning point in the long history of life.  (Damasio/FWH/4)”

And to me, this would include when and how it originates in the development-evolution of each single individual person.

“…consciousness is the critical biological function that allows us to know sorrow or know joy, to know suffering or know pleasure, to sense embarrassment or pride, to grieve for lost love or lost life.  Whether individually experienced or observed, pathos is a by-product of consciousness and so is desire.  (Damasio/FWH/4)”

“Consciousness amplifies” (Damasio/FWH/5)

“At its simplest and most basic level, consciousness lets us recognize an irresistible urge to stay alive and develop a concern for the self.  At its most complex and elaborate level, consciousness helps us develop a concern for other selves and improve the art of life.  (Damasio/FWH/5)”

He is tying empathy to a more complex and elaborate level of consciousness.  It is my suspicion that consciousness is tied to conscience.  To the degree that perhaps PTSD is operating for an individual, consciousness is limited because so much of the memory reenactments are automatic.  To the degree that automatic reactions control a person’s life, empathy and conscience are limited.

Like with my mother and other BPD people (fragmented selves), who lack self reflective abilities – those of us with altered brains, lacking empathy and mentalizing abilities.

PTSD creates an impairment of consciousness and connection to self

In the beginning, consciousness arises from and through an adequate attachment environment where the growing self is recognized, encouraged, mirrored, allowed and assisted in its birth.  Chronic peritrauma from birth prevents this from happening, aborts the process, interferes with, distorts it


“…bodily present but personally unaccounted for, absent without leave.  (Damasio/FWH/6)”

“…the razor-sharp transition between a fully conscious mind and a mind deprived of the sense of self.  (Damasio/FWH/7)”

“…a sense of self …an indispensable part of the conscious mind  (Damasio/FWH/7)”

sentient being

sociology of consciousness studies

“passions of the soul(Damasio/FWH/8)”

“different emotions…induced in the brain and played out in the theater of the body  (Damasio/FWH/8)”

“…both the induction of emotions and the consequent bodily changes that largely constitute an emotional state were signaled in several brain structures appropriate to map such changes, thus constituting the substrate for feeling an emotion.  But, for the life of me, I could not understand how that brain substrate of feeling could become known to the organism having the emotion….something like a sense of self was needed to make the signals that constitute the feeling of emotion known to the organism having the emotion.  (Damasio/FWH/8)”

“…very different biological impact of three distinct although closely related phenomena:  an emotion, the feeling of that emotion, and knowing that we have a feeling of that emotion.  No less important, overcoming the obstacle of self might also help elucidate the neural underpinnings of consciousness in general. (Damasio/FWH/8)”


“Much as I see the mater of self as a critical issue in the elucidation of consciousness, it is important to make clear that the (Damasio/FWH/8) problem of consciousness is not confined to the matter of self….how the brain inside the human organism engenders the mental patters we call, for lack of a better term, the images of an object….Quite candidly, this first problem of consciousness is the problem of how we get a “move-in-the-brain,” provided we realize that in this rough metaphor the movie has as many sensory tracks as our nervous system has sensory portals – sight, sound, taste, and olfaction, touch, inner sense, and so on.  (Damasio/FWH/9)”

object:  “entities as diverse as a person, a place, a melody, a toothache, a state of bliss….  (Damasio/FWH/9)”

image:  “…a mental pattern in any of the sensory modalities, e.g., a sound image, a tactile image, the image of a state of well-being.  (Damasio/FWH/9)”

qualia:  “philosophical issue…simple sensory qualities to be found in the blueness of the sky or the tone of sound…and the fundamental components of the images in the movie metaphor are thus made of qualia.  I believe these qualities will be eventually explained neurobiologically….(Damasio/FWH/9)”

“…the second problem of consciousness….is the problem of how, in parallel with engendering mental patterns for an object, the brain also engenders a sense of self in the act of knowing.  (Damasio/FWH/9)”


“There is a presence of you in a particular relationship with some object.  If there were no such presence, how would your thoughts belong to you?  Who could tell that they did?  (Damasio/FWH/10)”

This is the fine tuning part.  Did I know that there was a presence of me in particular relationship with some object?  Did I have any thoughts, let alone any that I knew belonged to me?

Tied to attachment system?  “I am invisible unless I am being seen by you.”  (My wraith thoughts at 21)

“The presence is quiet and subtle…the simplest form of such a presence is also an image, actually the kind of image that constitutes a feeling.  In that perspective, the presence of you is the feeling of what happens when your being is modified by the acts of apprehending something.  The presence never quits, from the moment of awakening to the moment sleep begins.  The presence must be there or there is no you.  (Damasio/FWH/10)”

This all comes about by somebody affirming our separate existence from birth.

It starts out at birth, “If I am not in the presence of somebody else then I do not exist.”  From birth, when we have a need and “leave the pure flow place,” somebody is supposed to be there to meet that need – and in doing so, to meet US at the same time.  This is where our self-sense is supposed to be born – right there with the opioid system functioning.

I would think that if this self-sense does not form correctly or adequately that there is a corresponding sense of loneliness that is near excruciating in any situation other than a sheer survive-in-the-moment with an immediate threat of extinction.

Any other time other than this threat one, a self is supposed to be available, and when it isn’t, this loneliness pervades and encompasses all “space” such as the self would if there WAS ONE.

This is a process of definition by absence rather than by presence.

This must be some sort of SERIOUS paradox, then, that there can be a “YOU” without this “PRESENCE!”

From birth, if I was not in the presence of someone who cared for and about ME, I did not exist.  I did not exist as separate from my mother during the abuse from birth – because I wasn’t separate – I was her externalized trauma memory, her projection.

When being raised by a PTSD parent, they are in the past, like in a time warp, and we as separate individuals did not exist in that past, therefore we do not exist in their present – therefore we do not exist at all in situations where the abuse begins at birth.  We are invisible to these parents, therefore we remain invisible, especially to ourselves because we must first be visible to our mothers.

++ dismissive parents don’t see us hardly at all

++ preoccupied parents see us sometimes


“The solution of this second problem requires the understanding of how…we sense that the proprietary knowledge you and I behold in our minds, this very moment, is shaped in a particular perspective, that of the individual inside of who it is formed, rather than in some canonical, one-type-fits-all perspective.  The solution also requires the understanding of how the images of an object and of the complex matrix of relations, reactions, and plans related to it are sensed as the unmistakable mental property of an automatic owner who, for all intents and purposes, is an observer, a perceiver, a (Damasio/FWH/10) knower, a thinker, and a potential actor.  (Damasio/FWH/11)”

This must connect to the automatic nature of the PTSD system – that it overrides the automatic owner, or self.

“…solving the second problem of consciousness consists in discovering the biological underpinnings for the curious ability we humans have of constructing, not just the mental patterns of an object – the images of persons, places, melodies, and of their relationships, in short, the temporally and spatially integrated mental images of something-to-be-known – but also the mental patterns which convey, automatically and naturally, the sense of a self in the act of knowing.  Consciousness, as we commonly think of it, from its basic levels to its most complex, is the unified mental pattern that brings together the object and the self.  (Damasio/FWH/11)”


“…the neurobiology of consciousness faces two problems:  the problem of how the movie-in-the-brain is generated, and the problem of how the brain also generates the sense that there is an owner and observer for that movie.  The two problems are so intimately related that the latter is nested within the former.  (Damasio/FWH/11)”


I just had lunch with a therapist from the local mental health center.  He says that they do not routinely even bring up a client’s childhood because it is “a touchy subject” unless the client brings it up first.  I don’t understand this!  How is the client even supposed to know that those experiences are even related to what brings them in for therapy?

He basically said that child abuse is a “taboo” subject.  I mean, where else would it be more appropriate for discussion than in therapy?  I suggest that this is a gross disservice to the public.  It’s like if I went to a doctor with a compound fracture in all of my limbs and they ignored it!  “Gee, I see here that you hurt.  Let me give you some drugs for that.”  For every one of us with infant abuse histories and early-onset PTSD, we are really being either misdiagnosed, or diagnosed with a meaningless label.

If nobody wants to look at this, or talk about it, or find out what it means and what it feels like, we are basically being condemned to live shadow lives, half lives, twisted and deprived lives – without having even a core self or consciousness.

When Hillman talks about the soul’s loneliness for that “other world,” imagine even how much lonelier it is if we have to go through this life without even the accompaniment of a self.  It becomes a game of hide-and-seek we can never win and can never stop playing.

And what happens when whatever self there might be is surrounded by, encased within, exists only in a condition of unbearable pain?  Then is it best not to create any links to this self at all?  This is the MIA self.

Or when the “good” self is only seen in the face of the “other,” the way I exist when I am with Ernie?


“In effect, the second problem is that of generating the appearance of an owner and observer for the movie within the movie; and the physiological mechanisms behind the second problem have an influence on the mechanisms behind the first.  (Damasio/FWH/11)”


“…power of triangulation of mind, behavior, and brain….(Damasio/FWH/13)”

“…private mind, public behavior, and [hidden] brain function….(Damasio/FWH/15)”

“…some aspects of the processes of consciousness can be related to the operation of specific brain regions and systems, thus opening the door to discovering the neural architecture which supports consciousness.  The regions and systems in question cluster in a limited set of brain territories and no less so than with functions such as memory or language there will be an anatomy of consciousness.  (Damasio/FWH/15)”


“…consciousness and wakefulness, as well as consciousness and low-level attention, can be separated….patients can be awake and attentive without having normal consciousness….  (Damasio/FWH/15)”


“The third and perhaps most revealing fact is that consciousness and emotion are not separable….the connection between emotion and consciousness, on the one hand, and between both of these and the body, on the other, form a main theme of this book.  (Damasio/FWH/16)”




“The fourth fact is that consciousness…can be separated into simple and complex kinds, and the neurological evidence makes the separation transparent.  The simplest kind, which I call core consciousness provides the organism with a sense of self about one moment – now – and about one place – here.  The scope of core consciousness is the here and now.  Core consciousness does not illuminate the future, and the only past it vaguely lets us glimpse is that which occurred in the instant just before.  There is no elsewhere, there is no before, there is no after.  (Damasio/FWH/16)”

“…core consciousness is a simple, biological phenomenon; it has one single level of organization; it is stable across the lifetime of the organism; it is not exclusively human; and it is not dependent on conventional memory, working memory, reasoning, or language. (Damasio/FWH/16)”

“The supersense of core consciousness is the first step into the light  (Damasio/FWH/16) of knowing and it does not illuminate a whole being.  (Damasio/FWH/17)”

Well, that pretty much describes my childhood.  Yet I am not sure I even had a “sense of self about one moment.”  But I understand what he is calling the SCOPE, and I see that this is what the evolutionarily changed brain knows, and is the frame it operates within:  NOW, because threat of extinction is NOW.


“On the other hand, the complex kind of consciousness, which I call extended consciousness and of which thee are many levels and grades, provides the organism with an elaborate sense of self – an identity and a person, you or me, no less – and places that person at a point in individual historical time, richly aware of the lived past and of the anticipated future, and keenly cognizant of the world beside it.  (Damasio/FWH/16)”

“…extended consciousness is a complex biological phenomenon; it has several levels of organization; and it evolves across the lifetime of the organism.  Although I believe extended consciousness is also present in some nonhumans, at simple levels, it only attains its highest reaches in humans.  It depends on conventional memory and working memory.  When it attains it human peak, it is also enhanced by language.  (Damasio/FWH/16)”

“…the supersense of extended consciousness eventually brings a full construction of being into the light.  In extended consciousness, both the past and the anticipated future are sensed along with the here and now in a sweeping vista as far-ranging as that of an epic novel.  (Damasio/FWH/17)”

I do not have this, even now!  This must relate to autobiographical memory, a coherent life story – I do not have that, which comes from a secure infant attachment.  I guess I lack the SUPERSENSE?  I wish he defined his word here.  That would be useful.

I can try to “rationalize” that there is a future, and I can try to “pop the beads” of my past together even though there is a numbness between them, but I cannot FEEL future or past.

“…the levels of knowing which permit human creativity are those which only extended consciousness allows.  (Damasio/FWH/17)”

So, how can I be a creative person, then?  Was I creative as a child?  Was making my paper dolls a creative act?  If so, then I MUST have had some VERSION of extended consciousness.  I had to plan by getting books out of the library, etc.  But these experiences were not specifically tied to any awareness of myself as the doer, the maker, the enjoyer of either the dolls or of the process itself.


“…extended consciousness is not an independent variety of consciousness:  on the contrary, it is built on the foundation of core consciousness.  The fine scalpel of neurological disease reveals that impairments of extended consciousness allow core consciousness to remain unscathed.  By contrast, impairments that begin at the level of core consciousness demolish the entire edifice of consciousness:  extended consciousness collapses as well.  The glory that is consciousness requires the orderly enhancement of both kinds of consciousness.  (Damasio/FWH/17)”

“Incidentally, the two kinds of consciousness correspond to two kinds of self.  The sense of self which emerges in core consciousness is the core self, a transitory entity, ceaselessly re-created for each and every object with which the brain interacts.  (Damasio/FWH/17)”

This, again, is probably the MIA self, the one dependent for its existence upon being in relationship – literally – to something or someone.  It gives us this extremely needy self.

“Our traditional notion of self, however, is linked to the idea of identity and corresponds to a nontransient collection of unique facts and ways of being which characterize a person.  My term for that entity is the autobiographical self.  The autobiographical self depends on systematized memories of situations in which core consciousness was involved in the knowing of the most invariant  characteristics of an organism’s life – who you were born to, where, when, your likes and dislikes, the way you usually react to a problem or a conflict, you name, and so on.  I use the term autobiographical memory to (Damasio/FWH/17) denote the organized record of the main aspects of an organism’s biography.  The two kinds of self are related, and…the autobiographical self arises from the core self.  (Damasio/FWH/18)”

But this does not FEEL coherent.  Like there is a gap between IT and ME.


“…language, memory, reason, attention, and working memory.  While such functions are indeed necessary for the top tiers of extended consciousness to operate normally, the study of neurological patients suggests that they are not required for core consciousness.  (Damasio/FWH/18)”

“To be sure, memory, intelligent inferences, and language are critical to the generation of what I call the autobiographical self and the process of extended consciousness….but I do not believe consciousness began that way, at that high a level in the hierarchy of cognitive processes and that late in the history of life and each of us.  I propose that the earliest forms of consciousness precede inferences and interpretations – they are part of the biological transition that eventually enables inferences and interpretations.  Accordingly, a theory of consciousness should account for the simpler, foundational kind of the phenomenon which occurs close to the nonconscious representation of the organism for whose sake the entire show is put together and which can support the later development of identity and person.  (Damasio/FWH/18)”

This makes me think of the limitations Bateman talks about in terms of mentalizing.  If the first part does not occur correctly, then the later abilities will be disturbed or missing.

“As I see it, natural low-level attention precedes consciousness, while focused attention follows the unfolding of consciousness.  Attention is as necessary to consciousness as having images.  But attention is not sufficient for consciousness and is not the same as consciousness.  (Damasio/FWH/18)”


“…the brain creates integrated and unified mental scenes…an important aspect of consciousness, especially at its highest levels.  Those scenes do not exist in a vacuum.  I believe they are integrated and unified because of the singularity of the organism and for the benefit of that single organism.  The mechanisms that prompt the integration and unification of the scene require an explanation.  (Damasio/FWH/19)”

This has fascinating implications for PTSD – with its lack of integration.

It also has implications for insecure attachments that prevent the person from having a coherent life story.

This next part is also related to how I could play basketball in 8th grade flawlessly.

“If “self-consciousness” is taken to mean “consciousness with a sense of self,” then all human consciousness is necessarily covered by the term – there is just no other kind of consciousness as far as I can see.  (Damasio/FWH/19)”

Is he talking about core or extended consciousness here?

“I would add that the biological state we describe as sense of self and the biological machinery responsible for engendering it may well have a hand in optimizing the processing of the objects to be known – having a sense of self is not only required for knowing, in the proper sense, but may influence the processing of whatever gets to be known.  In other words, the biological processes that pose the second problem of consciousness probably plays a role in the biological process that pose the first.  (Damasio/FWH/19)”


“How do we ever know that we are seeing a given object?  How do we become conscious in the full sense of the word?  How is the sense of self in the act of knowing implanted in the mind?  The way into a possible answer for the questions on self came only after I began seeing the problem of consciousness in terms of two key players, the organism and the object, and in terms of the relationships those players hold (Damasio/FWH/19) in the course of their natural interactions.  (Damasio/FWH/20)”

“The organism in question is that within which consciousness occurs; the object in question is any object that gets to be known in the consciousness process; and the relationships between organism and object are the contents of knowledge we call consciousness.  Seen in this perspective, consciousness consists of constructing knowledge about two facts:  that the organism is involved in relating to some object, and that the object in the relation causes a change in the organism.  (Damasio/FWH/20)”

Certainly this includes, way back at the individual origin of things, the relationship between the parent and the infant!

Yet all knowledge is not by definition conscious, is it?

“The neural patterns and images necessary for consciousness to occur are those which constitute proxies for the organism, for the object, and for the relationship between the two.  Placed in this framework, understanding the biology of consciousness becomes a matter of discovering how the brain can map both the two players and the relationship they hold.  (Damasio/FWH/20)”

This makes it sound like neural patterns and images are separate things.  IMAGES must require corresponding and essential neural patterns to exist at all!


“…only a narrow range of body states is compatible with life, and the organism is genetically designed to maintain that narrow range and equipped to seek it, through thick and through thin.  (Damasio/FWH/21)”


“…some parts of the brain are free to roam over the world and in so doing are free to map whatever object the organism’s design permits them to map.  On the other hand, some other parts of the brain, those that represent the organism’s own state, are not free to roam at all.  They are stuck.  They can map nothing but the body and do so within largely preset maps.  They (Damasio/FWH/21) are the body’s captive audience, and they are at the mercy of the body’s dynamic sameness.  (Damasio/FWH/22)”

“The body’s internal state must be relatively stable by comparison to the environment surrounding it….that stable state is governed from the brain by means of an elaborate neural machinery designed to detect minimal variations in the parameters of the body’s internal chemical profile and to command actions aimed at correcting the detected variations, directly or indirectly.  (Damasio/FWH/22)”

“(…The system is made of not one but many units, the most important of which are located in the brain stem, hypothalamus, and basal forebrain sections of the brain.)  (Damasio/FWH/22)”

“In short, the organism in the relationship play of consciousness is the entire unit of our living being, our body as it were; and yet, as it turns out, the part of the organism called the brain holds within it a sort of model of the whole thing.  This is a strange, overlooked, and noteworthy fact, and is perhaps the single most important clue as to the possible underpinning of consciousness.  (Damasio/FWH/22)”

“I have come to conclude that the organism, as represented inside its own brain, is a likely biological forerunner for what eventually becomes the elusive sense of self.  The deep roots for the self, including the elaborate self which encompasses identity and personhood, are to be found in the ensemble of brain devices which continuously and nonconsciously maintain the body state within the narrow range and relative stability required for survival.  These devices continually represent, nonconsciously, the state of activity within the ensemble of such devices the proto-self, the nonconscious forerunner for the levels of self which appear in our minds as the conscious protagonists of consciousness:  core self and autobiographical self.  (Damasio/FWH/22)”

“…the model “perceives” nothing and “knows” nothing; it does not talk and it does not make consciousness.  The model is, instead, a collection of brain devices whose main job is the automated management of the organism’s life….the management of life is achieved by a variety of innately set regulatory actions – secretion of chemical substances such as hormones as well as actual movements in viscera and in limbs.  The deployment of these actions depends on the information provided by nearby neural maps which signal, moment by moment, the state of the entire organism.  Most importantly, neither the life-regulating devices nor their body maps are the generators of consciousness, although their presence is indispensable for the mechanisms that do achieve core consciousness.  (Damasio/FWH/23)”

“This is the key issue…in the relationship play of consciousness, the organism is represented in the brain, abundantly and multifariously, and that representation is tied to the maintenance of the life process.  If this idea is correct, life and consciousness, specifically the self aspect of consciousness, are indelibly interwoven.  (Damasio/FWH/23)”

This must relate to the altered brain and to PTSD – the organism is represented as being in grave danger of extinction – and all systems are marshaled to respond to the threat, self included, or perhaps “subsumed” in the process.

The body then becomes the automated factor, overriding the conscious self.

“Survival depends on finding and incorporating sources of energy and on preventing all sorts of situations which threaten the integrity of living tissues…..on their own, (Damasio/FWH/23) without the guidance of images, actions would not take us far.  Good actions need the company of good images.  Images allow us to choose among repertoires of previously available patterns of action and optimize the delivery of the chosen action – we can, more or less deliberately, more or less automatically, review mentally the images which represent different options of action, different scenarios, different outcomes of action.  We can pick and choose the most appropriate and reject the bad ones.  Images also allow us to invent new actions to be applied to novel situations and to construct plans for future actions – the ability to transform and combine images of actions and scenarios is the wellspring of creativity.  (Damasio/FWH/24)”

If actions are at the root of survival and if their power is tied to the availability of guiding images, it follows that a device capable of maximizing the effective manipulation of images in the service of the interests of a particular organism would have given enormous advantages to the organisms that possessed the device and would probably have prevailed in evolution.  Consciousness is precisely such a device.  (Damasio/FWH/24)”

“The pathbreaking novelty provided by consciousness was the possibility of connecting the inner sanctum of life regulation with the processing of images.  Put in other words, it was the possibility of bringing the system of life regulation – which is housed in the depths of the brain in regions such as the brain stem and hypothalamus – to bear on the processing of the images which represent the things and events which exist inside and outside the organism.  Why was this really an advantage?  Because survival in a complex environment, that is, efficient management of life regulation, depends on taking the right action, and that, in turn, can be greatly improved by purposeful preview and manipulation of images in mind and optimal planning.  Consciousness allowed the connection of the two disparate aspects of the process – inner life regulation and image making.  (Damasio/FWH/24)”

“Consciousness generates the knowledge that images exist within the individual who forms them, it places images in the organism’s perspective by referring those images to an integrated representation (Damasio/FWH/24) of the organism, and, in so doing, allows the manipulation of the images to the organism’s advantage.  Consciousness, when it appears in evolution, announces the dawn of individual forethought.  (Damasio/FWH/25)”

This is saying nothing of wisdom, but reminds me of the prehistory account of the “undivided mind.”

There was nothing that I could manipulate to my advantage when I was young.  Having the possibility of doing this manipulation MUST come first, I would think.

Which writer was that who referred to “manipulation of the environment is the primary concern of organisms.”  Actually, keeping their internal states in balance is the first essential, I would think.  Controlling that internal environment must come first.  Getting what they need from the outside would be next, but is this a separate process?

“Consciousness opens the possibility of constructing in the mind some counterpart to the regulatory specifications hidden in the brain core, a new way for the life urge to press its claims and for the organism to act on them.  Consciousness is the rite of passage which allows an organism armed with the ability to regulate its metabolism, with innate reflexes, and with the form of learning known as conditioning, to become a minded organisms, the kind of organism in which responses are shaped by a mental concern over the organism’s own life.  (Damasio/FWH/25)”

I would think, again, that the possibility must exist in the environment FIRST.


“…I was looking specifically for how the brain might represent the fact that when an organism is engaged in the processing of an object, the object causes the organism to react and, in so doing, change its state.  (Damasio/FWH/25)”

“I propose that we become conscious when the organism’s representation devices exhibit a specific kind of wordless knowledgethe knowledge that the organism’s own state has been changed by an object – and when such knowledge occurs along with the salient representation of an object.  The sense of self in the act of knowing an object is an infusion of new knowledge, continuously created within the brain as long as “objects,” actually present or recalled, interact with the organism and cause it to change.  (Damasio/FWH/25)”

the knowledge that the organism’s own state has been changed by an object: How is a child able to do this?  At what age?

“The sense of self is the first answer to a question the organism never posed:  To whom do the ongoing mental patterns now unfolding (Damasio/FWH/25) belong?  The answer is that they belong to the organism, as represented by the proto-self….the simplest form in which the wordless knowledge emerges mentally is the feeling of knowing – the feeling of what happens when an organism is engaged with the processing of an object – and that only thereafter can inferences and interpretations begin to occur regarding the feeling of knowing.  (Damasio/FWH/26)”

“…consciousness…is a feeling that accompanies the making of any kind of image – visual, auditory, tactile, visceral – within our living organisms.  Placed in the appropriate context, the feeling marks those images as ours and allows us to say, in the proper sense of the terms, that we see or hear or touch.  Organisms unequipped to generate core consciousness are condemned to making images of sight or sound or touch, there and then, but cannot come to know that they did.  From its most humble beginnings, consciousness is knowledge, knowledge consciousness….(Damasio/FWH/26)”


Consciousness and conscience are in fact distinguishable:  consciousness pertains to the knowing of any object or action attributed to a self, while conscience pertains to the good or evil to be fond in actions or objects. Consciousness and mind are also distinguishable:  consciousness is the part of mind concerned with the apparent sense of self and knowing.  There is more to mind than just consciousness and there can be mind without consciousness….(Damasio/FWH/27)”

Interesting that he says good or evil, not right or wrong, not life enhancing or life destroying.

“The biological tricks that cause consciousness have powerful consequences, but I see consciousness as an intermediary rather than as the culmination of biological development.  Ethics and the law, science and technology, the work of the muses and the milk of human kindness, those are my chosen summits for biology….consciousness is a sunrise, not the midday sun, and a sunset even less.  Understanding consciousness says little or nothing about the origins of the universe, the meaning of life, or the likely destiny of both.  (Damasio/FWH/28)”


Sometimes we use our minds not to discover facts but to hide them.  (Damasio/FWH/28)”

“We use part of the mind as a screen to prevent another part of it from sensing what goes on elsewhere.  (Damasio/FWH/28)”

I would say that a lot of mental illness, certainly my mother’s, operated in this fashion.  That is what defenses do.


“…emotions and feelings are tangibly about the body.  Sometimes we use our minds to hide a part of our beings from another part of our beings.  (Damasio/FWH/29)”

“I could describe the hiding of the body as a distraction, but I would have to add that it is a very adaptive distraction.  In most circumstances, rather than concentrating resources on our inner states, it is perhaps more advantageous to concentrate one’s resources on the images that describe problems out in the world or on the premises of those problems or on the options for their solution and their possible outcomes.  (Damasio/FWH/29)”

Most circumstances – again about PTSD, we who have it must realize that a greater than average need exists for us to concentrate not only on what is happening around us, but on how our bodies are reacting all by themselves!  To protect us, yes, but NOT in an adaptive way.

“It must have been easier to sense the life within, when the brain provided a lopsided view in the opposite direction, tilted toward the dominant representation of the internal states of the organism.  If it ever was like that…lucky humans would have perceived in an instant that all of their amusing antics were about life and that underneath every image of the outside world, there stood the ongoing image of their living bodies….I suspect that they were able to sense more about themselves than many of us, the unforewarned, are able to (Damasio/FWH/29) sense these days.  I marvel at the ancient wisdom of referring to what we now call mind by the word psyche which was also used to denote breath and blood  (Damasio/FWH/30)”

Perhaps it is in this way that the evolutionarily different PTSD brains operate – we are the forewarned.  All of the time, whether or not the danger is real at the present moment or not.

“…internal states – which occur naturally along a range whose poles are pain and pleasure, and are caused by either internal or external objects and events – become unwitting nonverbal signifiers of the goodness or badness of situations relative to the organism’s inherent set of values.  I suspect that in earlier stages of evolution these states – including all of those we classify as emotions – were entirely unknown to the organisms producing them.  The states were regulatory and that was enough; they produced some advantageous actions, internally or externally, or they assisted indirectly the production of such actions by making them more propitious.  But the organisms carrying out those complicated operations knew nothing of the existence of those operations and actions since they did not even know, in the proper sense of the word, of their own existence as individuals.  True enough, organisms had a body and a brain, and brains had some representation of the body.  Life was there, and the representation of life was there, too, but the potential and rightful owner of each individual life ad no knowledge that life existed because nature had not invented an owner yet.  There was being but not knowing.  Consciousness had not begun.  (Damasio/FWH/30)”

Like newborn infants.  And perhaps, like those of us with PTSD and/or the different brains.

“Consciousness begins when brains acquire the power, the simple power I must add, of telling a story without words, the story that there is life ticking away in an organism, and that the states of the living organism, within body bounds, are continuously being altered by encounters with objects or events in its environment, or, for that matter, by thoughts and by internal adjustments of the life process.  Consciousness emerges when this primordial story – the story of an object causally changing the state of the body – can be told using the (Damasio/FWH/30) universal nonverbal vocabulary of body signals.  The apparent self emerges as the feeling of a feeling.  When the story is first told, spontaneously, without it ever having been requested, and forevermore after that when the story is repeated, knowledge about what the organism is living through automatically emerges as the answer to a question never asked.  From that moment on, we begin to know.  (Damasio/FWH/31)”

Again, this reminds me of PTSD, how the traumas are enacted and reenacted without words – through nonverbal vocabulary of actions, of body signals.  How the emotions can be retained in the body without the factual part of the memories (fried).  PTSD, through its drama, is telling a primordial story.





“The study of consciousness requires both internal and external views.  (Damasio/FWH/82)”

I find some comfort in this statement as it is an affirmation that the kind of research I am doing, and the kind of book I am writing, has a parallel in this work on consciousness that he is talking about – because, in essence, that is what I am studying – both my mother’s lack of it and the resulting lack of it she passed onto me – and my attempts to FIND my consciousness so that I can more fully have a self.  Or, is it the other way around?  Find my self and that will lead me to my consciousness?

“”Consciousness happens in the interior of an organism rather than in public, but it is associated with a number of public manifestations.  Those manifestations do not describe the internal process in the same direct way that a spoken sentence translates although, yet there they are, available to observation, as correlated and telltale signs of the presence of consciousness.  (Damasio/FWH/83)”

Or, one could continue to speculate, of the absence of consciousness – as per my mother’s actions.  Those were public manifestations.  I am beginning to suspect that the whole spectrum of PTSD reenactments is just that, an attempt to SHOW the public what is going on inside the person – that they are attempts to portray what cannot be put into words – that inability being a hallmark of PTSD in the first place, contributing to the lack of integration of the memories, which are the experience as held by the PTSD person.

“Based on what we know about private human minds and on what we know and can observe of human behavior, it is possible to establish a three-way link among:

[](1) certain external manifestations, e.g., wakefulness, background emotions, attention, specific behaviors;

[] (2) the corresponding internal manifestations of the human being having those behaviors as reported by that human being; and

Remembering that trauma dramas, trauma reenactments are “reports” by that person, not so much of what they have personally experienced because that integration process has not been completed, but of what the trauma itself is communicating of itself through that person – as if the PTSD person is traumas’ spokes person

[] (3) the internal manifestation that we, as observers, can verify in ourselves when we are in circumstances equivalent to those of the observed individual.  This three-way linkage authorizes us to make reasonable inferences about human private states based on external behavior. [1. chap 3]  (Damasio/FWH/83)”

“The solution of the method problem posed by the privacy of consciousness relies on a natural human ability, that of theorizing constantly about the state of mind of others from observations of behaviors, reports of mental states, and counterchecking of their correspondences,  (Damasio/FWH/83) given one’s own comparable experiences.  (Damasio/FWH/84)”

Because we have a different brain, built in, by and for a different world, we do not HAVE comparable experiences with regular human beings, and cannot operate in such a way that we can ever truly know our own or even another PTSD person’s reality.  We have experiences from trauma – and as per the monkeys with brain damage caused by experimentations, we would be left to form communities or enclaves that are separate and removed from those of the “regular” members of our species.  All we can do is try to imagine what regular life is like.

This is all fine and dandy, but one must realize and remember that not all of us were enabled or allowed to develop this “natural human ability.”  That is the “can’t empathize, can’t mentalize” part of how our brain operates.  Whether these different brains can’t, or won’t is the question.  I suppose if the ability was not built into our brain circuitry as our brain’s developed, then we cannot, therefore we will not and do not do this basic human activity.  We are disabled from doing so.

We cannot EVER theorize about another’s mind – and that means that we cannot, like regular people can and do, theorize constantly about the state of mind of others – nor can we observe their behaviors correctly or understand their reports of their mental states, and we cannot countercheck for correspondences!

Damasio, with his intelligent wit, refers to the Woody Allen film, Deconstructing Harry.

“Even when a screen is interposed between you and an object and modifies its perception, i.e., when the lenses of your glasses are dirty, the fuzziness is not in the object.  Fuzziness and out-of-focusness are very much a part of our conscious perspective in perception.  In normal circumstances, fuzziness and out-of-focusness (Damasio/FWH/84) occur within a person’s organism, due to a number of possible causes arising at a variety of physiological levels, all the way from the eye to the pathways that transmit signals to the brain to the brain itself.  Other persons in the vicinity of he-who-seems-fuzzy-to-me do not share my fuzziness and my out-of-focusness.  The scene [in Allen’s film] succeeds because no one can bring Mel into focus.  Fuzziness has become an external property of a living being rather than the personally constructed feature of an observation. (Damasio/FWH/85)”

I could wonder about the exceptions to this.  My mother was “fuzzy.”  It was like the Emperor’s new clothes – nobody stepped forward and stated what should have been the obvious truth, “You are fuzzy.”

Instead, she created her own version of the world, with her family in it.  She created a fuzzy world so that everything matched from her point of view.  If there was a conflict, it was because one of us stepped out of HER focus.  We therefore had to develop – me most of all – in a state of fuzziness to ourselves.

Perhaps an ironical twist is, because I had no definable definite self of my own, what I saw of the world, even by age 18, was like through a perfectly clear camera lens without pollution caused by the interceding perspective of a “self-who-does-the-watching.”  Because I was so fuzzy as to not exist at all, the world, from my point of view, was perfectly clear.  I suspected nothing, I asked for nothing, I anticipated and hoped and wanted for nothing.  I expected nothing to be different.  I did not know that “different” even existed.

And my mother was in focus to me because she had created my brain and the eyes I saw her through.  That she was a fuzzy, out-of-focus badly formed hologram of a person and of a mother certainly never entered my brain.

Being in focus is relative – to a point.  It WAS obvious the emperor had no clothes on.

“…relating the collected evidence to the measured manifestation of one of the neurobiological phenomena we are beginning to understand, at the level of molecules, neurons, neural circuits, or systems of circuits.  The approach is based on the following assumptions:  that the processes of the mind, including those of consciousness, are based on brain activity; that the brain is a part of a whole organism with which it interacts continuously; and that we, as human beings, in spite of remarkable individual traits that make each of us unique, share similar biological characteristics in terms of the structure, organization, and function of our organisms. (Damasio/FWH/85)”

“The purposefulness and adequacy of behavior can be assessed by taking into account the context of the situation, whether natural or experimental, and determining whether the organism’s responses to stimuli and the organism’s self-initiated actions are appropriate to that context.  (Damasio/FWH/87)”

“Water with a twist of lime.”  Or limey, as the case may be. Abusing an infant is never what we would consider an action that is appropriate in any context.  And yet it does happen.  But seen from the INSIDE of the perpetrator, things do make sense or they would not behave the way that they do.  Consideration of perspective is crucial.

I suppose it is only we humans that can act from a place that is not direct and obvious.  Hence, we have a psychology, and are enigmas wrapped within mystery.

“Just as the music you hear is the result of many groups of instruments playing together in time, the behavior of an organism is the result of several biological systems performing concurrently…..Some biological systems produce behaviors that are present continuously, while others produce behaviors that may or may not be present at a given time.  The principal ideas I wish to highlight here are:  First, that the behavior we observe in a living organism is not the result of one simple melodic line but rather the result of a concurrence of melodic lines at each time unit you select for the observation; if you were a conductor looking at the imaginary musical score of the organism’s behavior, you would see the different musical parts joined vertically at each (Damasio/FWH/87)

measure.  Second, that some components of behavior are always present, forming the continuous base of performance while others are present only during certain periods of the performance; the “behavioral score” would note the entrance of a certain behavior at a certain measure and the end of it some measures later, just as the conductor’s score notes the beginnings and ends of the solo piano parts within the movements of a concerto.  Third, that in spite of the various components, the behavioral product of each moment is an integrated whole, a fusion of contributions not unlike the polyphonic fusion of an orchestral performance.  Out of the critical feature I am describing here, concurrence in time, something emerges that is not specified in any of the parts.  (Damasio/FWH/88)”

“There is, however, one other part in the internal orchestral score for which there is no precise ex- (Damasio/FWH/88) ternal counterpart:  that part is the sense of self, the critical component of any notion of consciousness.  (Damasio/FWH/89)”

“In the context of this metaphor, we can imagine the sense of self as an additional part which informs the mind, nonverbally, of the very existence of the individual organism in which that mind is unfolding and of the fact that the organism is engaged in interacting with particular objects within itself or in its surroundings.  This knowledge alters the course of the mental process and the course of external behavior.  Its private presence, which is directly available only to its owner, can be inferred by an external observer from the influence it exerts on external behaviors, rather than from its own flagship behavior.  Wakefulness, background emotion, and low-level attention are thus external signs of internal conditions that are compatible with the occurrence of consciousness.  On the other hand, specific emotions, sustained and focused attention, and targeted behaviors appropriate to the context over extended periods of time are a good indication that consciousness is indeed occurring the in the subject we observe, even if we, as external observers, cannot observe consciousness directly.  (Damasio/FWH/89)”

This is the fly in my mother’s soup:  her behavior toward me was not appropriate in any way to the context of being my caregiver, my mother!  She had specific emotions, sustained and focused attention, and targeted behaviors, but they were not appropriate.

This lets me know there was a disturbance of consciousness – plain and simple.

“When wakefulness is removed, dream sleep aside, consciousness is removed.  Examples of this pairing are dreamless sleep, anesthesia, and coma.  But wakefulness is not the same as consciousness….Patients with some neurological conditions…are awake and yet lack what core consciousness would have added to their thought process:  images of knowing centered on a self.  (Damasio/FWH/90”

“Attention only betrays the presence of normal consciousness when it can be sustained over a substantial period of time relative to the objects that are necessary for appropriate behavior in a given context – this means many minutes and hours rather than seconds.  In other words, extended time and a focusing on appropriate objects define the sort of attention that is indicative of consciousness.  (Damasio/FWH/91)”

Does this have implications for ADHD, when attention focus is extremely transient?

“Complete and sustained failure of attention is associated with the dissolution of consciousness, as happens in drowsiness, confusional states, or stupor.  (Damasio/FWH/91)”

This makes me think of dad after his surgery, when he could not tell the difference between dreams, hallucinations and the real world, as he later put it.  I was there at the moment of his “dawning” that there was a line of demarcation between these states.  It was a blessed, and profound moment.

“We can all agree that attention and consciousness are related, but the nature of the relationship is a matter for debate.  My view is that both consciousness and attention occur in levels and grades, they are not monoliths, and they influence each other in a sort of upward spiral.  Low-level attention precedes core consciousness; it is needed to engage the processes that generate core consciousness.  But the process of core consciousness results in driving higher-level attention toward a focus.  When I attend to an acquaintance who has just turned up in my office, I do so under the influence of core consciousness.  I could only have generated that consciousness because my organism was directed by low-level automated (Damasio/FWH/91) attention to process certain features of the environment that are important for organisms like mine, namely, moving creatures with human faces.  As the processing continued, core consciousness helped focus attention on the particular object that engaged the organism in the first place.  (Damasio/FWH/92)”

So I guess he is saying that this automatic low-level automated attention to process certain features of the environment important to the organism precedes even core consciousness.

Perhaps because so much of my being had to be doing this scanning work, there was no time for the conscious part of me to evolve – and I suppose the automatic scanning is fastest, anyway – being directly connected into the body without having “contamination” from the mind.  (see prosody, below)

Those of us with brains built among relationship traumas do this scanning around people all of the time.  It is different from hurricane or battle trauma stimuli scanning, I believe.  It is pervasive, debilitating, and exhausting.  I suppose we are actually scanning for images in another’s mind – which no doubt allowed me to pick up the powder puff image with that client from invisible cues that I could still detect – cues outside and beyond the normal human range of detection.

Supposedly these cues would be imperceptible.  Yet I can find them when I scan – and yet I cannot detect a lie or deception in another person.  I take people at their word.  I understand that they mean what they say.  Aren’t these processes in direct contradiction to one another?

This is where the early onset PTSD anxiety lies – in this constant nonconscious scanning of the environment for danger

“In effect, her behavior is part of an immediately recognizable plan that could only have been formulated by an organism knowledgeable about its past, present, and anticipated future.  The behavior is consonant with such a plan over a long period of time – hours, in fact.  The sustained purposefulness and adequateness of her behavior require the presence of consciousness even if consciousness does not guarantee purposeful and adequate behavior:  perfectly conscious idiots may behave quite inadequately.  (Damasio/FWH/92)”

Was my mother’s behavior simply that of an idiot?

Did I have knowledge about my past, present, and anticipated future?  In a world of peritraumatic chaos, how could I predict anything?

“Something especially noteworthy about such sustained and adequate behaving is that specific behaviors are accompanied by a flow of emotional states as part of their unfolding.  The background emotions…continuously underscore the subject’s actions. (Damasio/FWH/92)”

He goes on to talk about prosody – my mother’s flow of emotional states could not be trusted to be benevolent or benign.  I was therefore chronically trying to pay attention to them – not unlike a preoccupied attachment style —  and because it started so early, it affects how I learned language – and still does affect how I listen.

“Telltale signals [of background emotions] include the overall body posture and the range of motion of the limbs relative to the trunk; the spatial profile of limb movements, which can be smooth or jerky; the speed of motions; the congruence of movements occurring in different body tiers, such as face, hands, and legs; and last and perhaps most important, the animation of the face.  Even when the observed subject speaks, emotional aspects of the communication are separate from the content of the words and sentences spoken.  Words and sentences, from the simple “Yes,” “no,” and “Hello” to “Good Morning” or “Good-bye,” are usually uttered with a background emotional inflectionThe inflection is an instance of prosody, the musical, tonal accompaniment to the speech sounds that constitute the words.  Prosody can express not just background emotions, but specific emotions as well.  (Damasio/FWH/92)”

I know I learned to listen to these two components of speech drastically separate from one another!  And I know this a is significant problem for those with early onset PTSD from insecure attachment with traumatic early caregiver interactions.

I have to force myself to listen “together” to the two when I am with anyone I do not trust completely – and there are few of those!

Part of what was so hard for me was that when my mother was interacting with other family members she could be “just fine,” yet with no warning whatsoever, no matter how much I tried to know from my scanning ahead of time, she would turn on me viciously.

This contributed greatly to my overall state of anxiety!

“In effect, normal human behavior exhibits a continuity of emotions induced by a continuity of thoughts.  The contents of those thoughts, and there are usually parallel and simultaneous contents, include objects with which the organism is actually engaged or objects recalled from memory as well as feelings of the emotions that have just occurred.  In turn, many of these “streams” thought – of actual objects, of recalled objects, and of feelings –can induce emotions, from background to secondary [he hasn’t defined secondary yet], with or without our cognizance.  The continuous exhibition of emotion derives from this overabundance of inducers, known and not known, simple and no so simple.  (Damasio/FWH/93)”

With my mother, her PTSD memory reenactments – from her own preoccupation (not consciously) with her own traumatic past – meant that there was a continual source of “rage inducers at Linda” possible.  As with most abusive people, I would guess, nobody could predict what would set her off.

“The continuity of the melodic line of background emotion is an important fact to consider in our observation of normal human behavior.  When we observe someone with intact core consciousness, well before any words are spoken, we find ourselves presuming the subjects’ state of mind.  Whether correct or not, some of the presumptions are based on a continuity of emotional signals available in the subject’s behavior.  (Damasio/FWH/93)”

How is it that I both watch and then MISS other’s cues at the same time?  How can I scan all the time and then miss the obvious nearly all of the time, as if the chronic anxiety is a screen I cannot see through no matter how much I want to or try to?  Is it just that I do not understand them?



“The term arousal is easier to define.  It denotes the presence of signs of autonomic nervous system activation such as changes in skin color (rubor or pallor), behavior of skin hair (hairs standing on end!), diameter of the pupils (larger or smaller), sweating, sexual erection, and so (Damasio/FWH/93) on, which are reasonable covered by lay terms such as excitement.  (Damasio/FWH/94)”


“Observing an episode of absence automatism [appearing as part of a seizure or immediately following one] you would have watched the elaborate behaviours of an organism deprived of all extended consciousness and of everything but perhaps the dimmest form of core consciousness.  One can only try to imagine the remains of a mind from which self and knowing have been removed, perhaps a mind strewn with images of things to be known but never really known, with things not really owned – stripped of the engine for deliberate action.  (Damasio/FWH/99)”

I would suggest that this might be reflective of a young infant’s mind, but even this infant begins by waving its arms around and begins to associate that it is the engine, the directive force behind those actions and that it can have intention. Yet how much can we imagine the mind of an infant, truly?

“The suspension of emotion is an (Damasio/FWH/99) important sign in absence seizures and in absence automatisms….The lack of emotion – no background emotions and no specific emotions – is conspicuous, but it has not been highlighted in the relevant literature….I venture that absence of emotion is a reliable correlate of defective core consciousness, perhaps as much as the presence of some degree of continuous emoting is virtually always associated with the conscious state….Deep sleep is not accompanied by emotional expressions, but in dream sleep during which consciousness returns in its odd way, emotional expressions are easily detectable in humans and in animals.  (Damasio/FWH/100)”

Isn’t it a statement regarding some criminals that they can, say, kill without emotion?  Hitler – did he have any emotion about what he did?

Did my mother?  And did she have remorse?  Is that a feeling?

“…suggesting that both emotions and core consciousness require, in part, the same neural substrates, and that strategically placed dysfunction compromises both kinds of processing.  The shared substrates include the ensemble of neural structures which support the proto-self…, the structures which both regulate and represent the body’s internal states.  I take the lack of emotion, from background emotion on up to higher levels of emotion, as a sign that important mechanisms of body regulation have been compromised.  Core consciousness is functionally close to the disrupted mechanisms, interwoven with them, and thus compromised along with them.  There is no such close functional relationship between emotional processing and ex- (Damasio/FWH/100) tended consciousness.  (Damasio/FWH/101)”


“Subjects with normal consciousness can take stock of their emotions in the form of feelings, and those feelings, in turn, can generate a new melodic line of emotions that confers upon behavior the traits we so easily recognize as characteristics of sentient life.  In the pathological condition, the suspension of the reverberating cycle of emotion-to-feeling-to-emotion robs behavior of a major telltale sign of sentience and generates in the observer the idea that something strange is going on in the mind of the subject observed.  (Damasio/FWH/101)”

He does not define sentient – but I do not think mother could take stock of [her] emotions in the form of feelings


“Reflection on these instances of disturbed consciousness reveals the following facts:

“First, there is a sharp separation between, on the one hand, wakefulness, low-level attention, and brief, adequate behaviors, which can survive the disturbance of consciousness, and, on the other, emotion, which is lost along with the sense of knowing and self.  The defect of knowing and self and of recognizably motivated emotion goes hand in hand with defects in planning, in high-level attention, and in sustained and adequate behaviors.  The decoupling of functions that we can observe in these cases exposes a layering of subcomponents which would have been difficult to notice, let alone tease apart, without the scalpel provided by neurological disease.  (Damasio/FWH/105)”


“…nearly all the sites of brain damage associated with a significant disruption of core consciousness share one important trait:  they are located near the brain’s midline, in fact, the left and right sides of these structures are like mirror images, looking at each other across the midline.  At the level of the brain stem and diencephalons (the region that encompasses the thalamus and hypothalamus), the damaged sites are close to the long set of canals and ventricles that define the midline of the entire central nervous system.  At cortical level, they are located in the medial (internal) surface of the brain.  None of them can be seen when we inspect the lateral (external) surfaces of the brain, and all of them occupy an intriguingly “central” position.  These structures are of old evolutionary vintage, they are present in numerous nonhuman species, and they mature early in individual human development.  (Damasio/FWH/106)”


end chapter 3


chapter eleven Under the light


“Perhaps the most startling idea in this book is that, in the end, consciousness begins as a feeling, a special kind of feeling, to be sure, but a feeling nonetheless.  I still remember why I began thinking of consciousness as feeling and it still seems like a sensible reason:  consciousness feels like a feeling, and if it feels like a feeling, it may well be a feeling.  It certainly does not feel like a clear image in any of the externally directed sensory modalities.  It is not a visual pattern or an auditory pattern; it is not an olfactory or gustatory pattern.  We do not see consciousness or hear consciousness.  Consciousness does not smell or taste.  Consciousness feels like some kind of pattern built with the nonverbal signs of body states.  It is for this reason perhaps that the mysterious source of our mental first-person perspective – core consciousness and its simple sense of self – is revealed to the organism in a form that is both powerful and elusive, unmistakable and vague.  (Damasio/FWH/312)”

“The idea of consciousness as a feeling of knowing is consistent with the important fact I adduced regarding the brain structures most closely related to consciousness:  such structures, from those that support the proto-self to those that support second-order mappings, process body signals of one sort or another, from those in the internal milieu to those in the musculoskeletal frame.  All of those structures operate with the nonverbal vocabulary of feelings.  It is thus plausible that the neural patterns which arise from activity in those structures are the basis for the sort of mental images we call feelingsThe secret of making consciousness may well be this:  that the plotting of a relationship between any object and the organism becomes the feeling of a feeling.  The mysterious first-person perspective of consciousness consists of newly-minted knowledge, information if you will, expressed as feeling.  (Damasio/FWH/313)”

“Presenting the roots of consciousness as feelings allows one to glean an explanation for the sense of self….that is, how the owner of the movie-in-the-brain emerges within the movie.  The proposal, however, does not fully address…how the movie-in-the-brain is generated from its qualic sources on up.  (Damasio/FWH/313)”

“Importantly, by making feelings be the primitives of consciousness, we are obliged to inquire about the intimate nature of feeling.  What are feelings made of?  What are feelings the perception of?  How far behind feelings can we get?  These questions are not entirely answerable at the moment.  They define the edge of our current scientific reach.  (Damasio/FWH/314)”

“…the idea that human consciousness depends on feelings….(Damasio/FWH/314)”

“Feelings cannot be duplicated unless flesh is duplicated, unless the brain’s actions on flesh are duplicated, unless the brain’s sensing of flesh after it has been acted upon by the brain is duplicated.  (Damasio/FWH/315)”

“…consciousness is ever present in the process of creativity, not only because its light is indispensable, but because the nature of its revelations guide the process of (Damasio/FWH/315) creation, in one way or another, more or less intensely.  In a curious way, whatever we do invent, from norms of ethics and law to music and literature to science and technology, is either directly mandated or inspired by the revelations of existence that consciousness offers us.  Moreover, in one way or another, more so or less, the inventions have an effect on existence as revealed, they alter it for better or for worse.  There is a circle of influence –existence, consciousness, creativity – and the circle closes.  (Damasio/FWH/316)”

“The drama of the human condition comes solely from consciousness.  Of course, consciousness and its revelations allow us to create a better life for self and others, but the price we pay for that better life is high.  It is not just the price of risk and danger and pain.  It is the price of knowing risk, danger, and pain.  Worse even:  it is the price of knowing what pleasure is and knowing when it is missing or unattainable.  (Damasio/FWH/316)”

I did not have this.

“The drama of the human condition thus comes from consciousness because it concerns knowledge obtained in a bargain that none of us struck:  the cost of a better existence is the loss of innocence about that very existence.  The feeling of what happens is the answer to a question we never asked, and it is also the coin in a Fastian bargain that we could never have negotiated.  Nature did it for us.  (Damasio/FWH/316)”


Infant Research and Adult Treatment:  Co-Constructing Interactions


Beatrice Beebe and Frank M. Lachmann

The Analytic Press, Inc.

101 West Street, Hillsdale, NJ  07642



“Tronick (1996) has suggested that, in the process of mutual regulation, each partner (mother and infant, or therapist and patient) affects the other’s “state of consciousness” (state of brain organization).  As each affects the other’s self-regulation, each partner’s inner organization is expanded into a more coherent, as well as a more complex, state:  “each individual is a self-organizing system that creates its own states of consciousness – states of brain organization – which can be expanded into more coherent and complex states in collaboration with another self-organizing system” (p. 9).  In this process, each partner’s state of consciousness expands to incorporate elements of consciousness of the other in a new and more coherent form.  Since both partners are affected by this process, there is a dyadic expansion  of consciousness into a more coherently organized and complex state of dyadic consciousness (p. 13).  Tronick suggests that this process describes a view of therapeutic action:  both analyst and patient create and transform unique dyadic states of consciousness through mutual and self-regulation.  (Beebe/IR/42)”




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