EMOTION AND THE BRAIN
WINDOWS OF OPPORTUNITY
“Brain development in the fetus and baby occurs through a series of critical periods, “windows of opportunity,” when the connections for a function are extremely receptive to input. Once the window closes, neural connections are pruned down to the most efficient, according to how much they are used. [note: he has just finished describing that all babies are born able to make sounds of all languages, but by 6 months if a baby does not hear a particular speech pattern, they “can no longer distinguish it,” and by a year old no longer processes auditory information it hasn’t heard.] Then the battle is over: the closed eye and the deciphering of foreign phonemes will never again regain space in the brain. (Ratey/ug/40)”
When an adult learns a language it uses entirely different systems, and ones not as good as what an infant uses.
“These precious windows of opportunity are also times of great vulnerability to irreversible damage. “Closet kids” found by police provide the strongest evidence. These children have been locked in closets or basements for years by psychotic or brutal parents. They grow up without hearing human conversation and are never able to master the sounds and grammatical rules necessary for smooth speech. Through (Ratey/ug/40) long instruction after they are found, other pathways compensate to some extent, but tragically, owing to the extreme deprivation, the critical period for natural speech development has been missed. (Ratey/ug/41)”
These windows are for more than just language – speech, grammar and syntax! That is what my book is about – it has to do also with attachment and socialization, memory, meaning, etc. – the language of being human is more than words.
A window of opportunity is not the same thing as “learning.” These windows are forming the structure of the brain in unalterable ways – hard versus soft wiring. It is not the same as learning a skill, it is giving the brain the necessary structure to learn particular sorts of skills with.
“Constraints on plasticity for many sensory and motor functions also depend on critical time periods. Most humans move all their body parts during the first two years of life. By age two the motor circuits become hard-wired…. Regions for basic vision are complete by six months. (Ratey/ug/41)”
“Acquisitions of other functions, however, such as academic learning, takes place over a lifetime, unconstrained by windows of development. (Ratey/ug/41)”
talks about 6 year old being able to learn language, but not a 13 year old closet child
“Understanding when the brain’s circuits are most receptive to learning a particular skill can help create the optimum environment for a child’s development. Psychiatrist Dan Stern at the University of Geneva believes that the critical period for developing emotions occurs from ten to eighteen months. Stern was one of the first and most long-term baby watchers, and has looked for evidence of emotional and social critical periods. His work indicates that if parents regularly respond to their baby with delight, the child’s circuits for positive emotions are reinforced. If parents repeatedly respond with horror, the child will shut down those circuits and instead reinforce the fear circuits; the research shows that early fright conditions the baby’s brain for more fright. Prolonged depression in the mother conditions the baby [I don’t think conditions is the right word here – like mixing metaphors – conditions goes with Pavlov] for depression, too. The key words here are “repeatedly” and “prolonged.” An occasional scowl won’t set the child up for a miserable life. (Ratey/ug/42)”
So what if the parent is responding repeatedly and prolonged?
“Stress management is also learned during a critical period early in life, according to research on newborn rats, which have neurons very similar to humans. The studies reveal that the more the rats are gently handled, the more they produce serotonin, a brain chemical that controls aggressive behavior. As adults, the rats who have received gentle handling were better able to cope with stress, had stronger immune systems, and actually lived longer than rats who had not been treated gently. (Ratey/ug/42)”
“Many cognitive functions share pathways in our brain’s complex tangle of neural connections. The development of one skill can therefore profoundly influence another that is seemingly unrelated. (Ratey/ug/42)”
The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness
Harcourt Brace & Company
Antonio R. Damasio
“Other responses are hidden from sight but no less important, such as the myriad changes that occur in organs other than blood vessels, skin, and heart. One example is the secretion of hormones such as cortisol that change the chemical profile of the internal milieu; or the secretion of peptides, such as [beta]-endorphin or oxytocin, that alter the operation of several brain circuits. Another is the release of neurotransmitters, such as the monoamines, norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine. During emotions, neurons located in the hypothalamus, basal forebrain, and brain stem release those chemical substances in several regions of the brain up above and, by so doing, temporarily transform the mode of working for many neural circuits. Typical consequences of the increase or decrease of release of such transmitters include the sense we have of the mind processes speeding up or slowing down, not to mention the sense of pleasantness or unpleasantness that pervades mental experience. Such sensing is part of our feeling of an emotion. (Damasio/FWH/60)”
“Different emotions are produced by different brain systems. (Damasio/FWH/60)”
“The essence of the available findings can be summarized as follows. First, the brain induces emotions from a remarkably small number of brain sites. Most of them are located below the cerebral cortex and are known as subcortical. The main subcortical sites are in the brain-stem region, hypothalamus, and basal forebrain. One example is the region known as periaqueductal gray (PAG), which is a major coordinator of (Damasio/FWH/60) emotional responses. The PAG acts via motor nuclei of the reticular formation and via the nuclei of cranial nerves, such as the nuclei of the vagus nerve.  Another important subcortical site is the amygdala. The induction sites in the cerebral cortex, the cortical sites, include sectors of the anterior cingulate region and of the ventromedial prefrontal region. (Damasio/FWH/61)”
“Second, these sites are involved in processing different emotions to varying degrees….the induction and experience of sadness, anger, fear, and happiness lead to activation in several of the sites mentioned above, but that the pattern for each emotion is distinctive. For instance, sadness consistently activates the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, hypothalamus, and brain stem, while anger or fear activate neither the prefrontal cortex nor hypothalamus. Brain-stem activation is shared by all three emotions, but intense hypothalamic and ventromedial prefrontal activations appears specific to sadness.  (Damasio/FWH/61)”
“Third, some of these sites are also involved in the recognition of stimuli which signify certain emotions. For instance…a structure known as the amygdala, which sits in the depth of each temporal love, is indispensable to (Damasio/FWH/61) recognizing fear in facial expressions, to being conditioned to fear, and even to expressing fear. [see his ref 16]….The amygdala, however, has little interest in recognizing or learning about disgust or happiness. Importantly, other structures, just as specifically, are interested in those other emotions and not in fear. (Damasio/FWH/62)”
“…the idea that there is no single brain center for processing emotions but rather discrete systems related to separate emotional patterns. (Damasio/FWH/62)”
“Each amygdala is very much a crossroads structure, with pathways from numerous cortical and subcortical regions ending in it and pathways emanating from it to just as many sites. (Damasio/FWH/62)”
So there are two of them?
regarding research on subject with damage to amygdala:
“…S cannot consistently tell the expression of fear in another person’s face, especially when the expression is ambiguous or other emotions are being expressed simultaneously….cannot draw a face that represents fear although she can draw faces that represent other emotions. When asked to mimic facial expressions of emotions she does so easily for the primary emotions but not for fear. (Damasio/FWH/65)”
When there is infant and child abuse occurring during the brain developmental stages, and if this region is damaged, then what?
Does this interfere with having even a normal process of CAUTION?
Is this why I could not – still cannot – protect myself against Ernie – and why I never saw “it” coming?
This has huge implications for people in battering situations – in unsafe situations. Our entire cautionary, warning and self protective system is not operating correctly! And how do we find the “safe way out and home?” If we don’t have a correct sense of fear, of threat, how do we know what safety is, or what is good for us on a fundamental level?
How could this not interfere with the growth of a conscience?
“Lastly, S does not experience fear in the same way you or I would in a situation that would normally induce it. At a purely intellectual level she knows what fear is supposed to be, what should cause it, and even what one may do in situations of fear, but little or none of that intellectual baggage, so to speak, is of any use to her in the real world. The fearlessness of her nature, which is the result of the bilateral damage to her amygdalae, has prevented her from learning, throughout her young life, the significance of the unpleasant situations that all of us have lived through. As a result she has not learned the telltale signs that announce possible danger and possible unpleasantness, especially as they show up in the face of another person or in a situation. Nowhere has this been proved more clearly than in a recent study requiring a judgment of trustworthiness and approachability based on human faces. [ref 20, chap 3] (Damasio/FWH/66)”
“The inability to make sound social judgments, based on previous experience, of situations that are or are not conducive to one’s welfare has important consequences for those who are so affected. Immersed in a secure Pollyanna world, these individuals cannot protect themselves against simple and not-so-simple social risks and are thus more vulnerable and less independent than we are. (Damasio/FWH/67)”
I know that I suffer from some of this – is this due to the abuse damage to the amygdala – or to alterations in its formation?
Issue for people in abusive relationships – they cannot tell the difference
Also, like the phone call from the woman who found Ruth’s check – I believed her when she said she would call the store and talk to Ruth – and I cannot understand why she did not keep her word. This is connected.
We must consider “degrees of damage.” If this part of the developing brain is affected in abused infants and children, then there IS damage. Somebody needs to understand what this might be, and how it affects us. Just saying “Oh, Gee! You have PTSD! Here’s a drug to FIX you” is not enough. We need to demand more.
We have no real idea what we are afraid of, what is appropriate to be afraid of, so we are both never afraid and terribly afraid – at the same time – all of the time. No wonder that the experts call PTSD an anxiety disorder!
“In a typical emotion, then, certain regions of the brain, which are part of a largely present neural system related to emotions, [which ones?] send commands to other regions of the brain and to most everywhere in the body proper. The commands are sent via two routes. One route is the bloodstream, where the commands are sent in the form of chemical molecules that act on receptors in the cells which constitute body tissues. The other route consists of neuron pathways and the commands along this route take the form of electrochemical signals which act on other neurons or on muscular fibers or on organs (such as the adrenal gland) which in turn can release chemicals of their own into the bloodstream. (Damasio/FWH/67)”
so the adrenal gland is an organ?
“The result of these coordinated chemical and neural commands is a global change in the state of the organism. The organs which receive the commands change as a result of the command, and the muscles, whether the smooth muscles in a blood vessel or the striated muscles (Damasio/FWH/67) in the face, move as they are told to do. But the brain itself is changed just as remarkably. The release of substances such as monoamines and peptides from regions of nuclei in the brain stem and basal forebrain alters the mode of processing of numerous other brain circuits, triggers certain specific behaviors (for example, bonding, playing, crying), and modifies the signaling of body states to the brain. In other words, both the brain and the body proper are largely and profoundly affected by the set of commands although the origin of those commands is circumscribed to a relatively small brain area which responds to a particular content of the mental process. (Damasio/FWH/68)”
“Beyond emotion, specifically described as the collection of responses I just outlined, two additional steps must take place before an emotion is known. The first is feeling, the imaging of the changes we just discussed. The second is the application of core consciousness to the entire set of phenomena. Knowing an emotion – feeling a feeling – only occurs at that point. (Damasio/FWH/68)”
When, during the infant brain developmental stages, does this become possible?
This HAS to relate to empathy abilities – and mentalizing.
“…three key steps of the process…. (Damasio/FWH/68)”
– “Engagement of the organism by an inducer of emotion…. (Damasio/FWH/68)”
– “Signals consequent to the processing of the object’s image activate all the neural sites that are prepared to respond to the particular class of inducer to which the object belongs. The sites I am talking about – for instance, in the ventromedial prefrontal cortices, amygdala, and brain stem – have been preset innately, but past experience…has modulated the manner in which they are likely to respond…. (Damasio/FWH/68)”
– “As a result of step 2, emotion induction sites trigger a number of signals toward other brain sites (for instance, monoamine nuclei, somatosensory cortices, cingulate cortices) and toward the body (for instance, viscera, endocrine glands), as previously discussed. Under some circumstances the balance of responses may favor intrabrain circuitry and engage the body minimally. This is what I have called “as if body loop” response. (Damasio/FWH/68)”
I don’t really understand what he means by this last sentence.
“The combined result of steps 1, 2, and 3 is a momentary and appropriate collection of responses to the circumstances causing the whole commotion…. (Damasio/FWH/69)”
“The fear response that you can see in a dog or a cat is executed in exactly the same manner, and so is the fear response you can examine in (Damasio/FWH/69) yourself when you walk at night on a dark street. That we, and at least the dog and the cat, can also come to know about the feelings caused by those emotions, thanks to consciousness, is another story. (Damasio/FWH/70)”
Humm. That’s interesting – dog, cat and us?
“…emotion, as the word indicates, is about movement, about externalized behavior, about certain orchestrations of reactions to a given cause, within a given environment. [note 21, chp 3]. (Damasio/FWH/70)”
“What qualifies for an emotion? Does pain? Does a startle reflex? Neither does, but if not, why not? The closeness of these related phenomena calls for sharp distinctions but the differences tend to be ignored. Startle reflexes are part of the repertoire of regulatory responses available to complex organisms and are made of simple behaviors (e.g., limb withdrawal). They may be included among the numerous and concerted responses that constitute an emotion – endocrine responses, multiple visceral responses, multiple musculoskeletal response, and so on. (Damasio/FWH/71)”
“Pain does not qualify for emotion, either. Pain is the consequence of a state of local dysfunction in a living tissue, the consequence of a stimulus – impending or actual tissue damage – which causes the sensation of pain but also causes regulatory responses such as reflexes and may also induce emotions on its own. In other words, emotions can be caused by the same stimulus that causes pain, but they are a different result from that same cause. Subsequently, we can come to know that we have pain and that we are having an emotion associated with it, provided there is consciousness. (Damasio/FWH/71)”
OK, so that is confusing. What about emotional pain, then? Is that a feeling? Now, where did I read that, that physical and emotional pain use the same neurons in the brain?
OK, now this is getting thick. How can I simplify what he is saying here and still get the message clear?
I need to think this BACK to a time, when I was but a newborn, when a great deal of physical pain was heaped upon my tiny body by a monstrously large woman who was my mother. We would like to consider that “normal” people, or those people who we want or need to consider “normal” would not commit such injury, such painful acts upon a tiny, helpless infant. But it does happen.
And what does the infant’s brain do with this experience? What can it do? A brain just forming does not know feeling – lacking the ability to be conscious of anything. And yet, as it experiences this pain, something DOES happen within its body. And what is happening will affect the way the brain forms.
I need to transpose Damasio’s description of a burn from picking up a hot plate, to tissue response from a slap or a blow to an infant’s body, to a prick with a diaper pin, to a hard pinch of the skin.
“First the heat [the blow, etc] activated a large number of thin and unmyelinated nerve fibers known as C-fibers, available near the burn. (These fibers, (Damasio/FWH/71) which are distributed literally everywhere in the body, are evolutionarily old and are largely dedicated to carrying signals about internal body states, including those that will end up causing pain. They are called unmyelinated because they lack the insulating sheath known as myelin. Lightly myelinated fibers known as A-[looks like a Greek “o” with squiggle on top I can’t make on my computer] travel along with C-fibers and perform a similar role. Together they are called noiciceptive because they respond to stimuli that are potentially or actually damaging to living tissues.) (Damasio/FWH/72)”
Now, I don’t know if a pin prick or a slap or blow would do the following
he goes on to describe in detail the body’s chemical reactions, and then states:
“The question that I am leading to arrives at this point: would one or all of those neural patterns of injured tissue be the same thing as (Damasio/FWH/72) knowing that you had pain. And the answer is, not really. Knowing that you have pain requires something else that occurs after the neural patterns that correspond to the substrate of pain – the noiciceptive signals – are displayed in the appropriate areas of the brain stem, thalamus, and cerebral cortex and generate an image of pain, a feeling of pain. (Damasio/FWH/73)”
This is all fine and good, but a newborn does not have much of a cortex as of yet, and certainly not much for image making abilities. What happens to them? What is this process like for them – particularly if it is a repeating experience, an unpredictable experience, and one accomplished by the hand of the primary caregiver who is needed to protect the infant?
Need we wonder about what happens when something this “amiss” happens – and then something massively goes wrong in the development of such an infant’s brain?
“But note that the “after” process to which I am referring is not beyond the brain, it is very much in the brain and, so far as I can fathom, is just as biophysical as the process that came before. Specifically, in the example above, it is a process that interrelates neural patterns of tissue damage with the neural patterns that stand for you, such that yet another neural pattern can arise – the neural pattern of you knowing, which is just another name for consciousness. If the latter interrelating process does not take place, you will never know that there was tissue damage in your organism – if there is no you and there is no knowing, there is no way for you to know, right? (Damasio/FWH/73)”
Well, is there a “you” in an infant? Would that, then, have to lead to a discussion of soul?
It isn’t, from the beginning, a matter of the “latter interrelating process” not taking place – it is ONLY that the “neural patterns that stand for you” cannot possibly be developed in a newborn. That takes time. That takes brain growth time.
So does it not MATTER then what somebody does to an infant if the “you” of that infant is not developed yet? Or is the “you” there just waiting for the “carriage of the self” to be completed far enough that there is actually a place to sit down and get down to the business of driving one’s self around?
This becomes a connection to the topic of dissociation, as well. At what point do the “neural patterns” of “you” exist enough for an infant to dissociate self from experience – the observing self from the experiencing self – (as – who is that who said that? Ratey? Or an article – I have to find that when I pull all of this together.)
If there is no “you,” one cannot dissociate from a “non-you,” or from a yet-to-be-formed-so-it-can-exit-for-you-to-dissociate-from-you.
They wait until 12 mos of age before they do the attachment assessment on infants. By then they evidently figure an infant has enough of a “you” in its neural patterns to dissociate with and from. But what has already happened in the developing brain-mind-body of that infant ALREADY, way before this test is done?
But a baby’s cortex is not fully developed by a year old. It is just barely old enough to fully manifest the shame reaction within its ANS. It is certainly not old enough to be considered truly conscious – it does not have its “you” neural patterns yet – which I hope Damasio describes in detail!
I know that I know from my own experience that prior to this time, if an infant is exposed to chronic peritrauma of abuse, something has already gone terribly terribly wrong in its brain-body-mind development.
We HAVE TO understand and accept this as REAL and quit pretending that it doesn’t happen, and that when it does, that it does not seriously threaten the normal developmental process of these children! This damage is being built within them, into them, and it will affect them the rest of their lives.
This is PTSD that is not truly POST. There was not a time when it wasn’t happening to these children. It is built into their brains from the very start.
Let us back up and take another look at what Damasio is saying occurs prior to any opportunity for an organism to KNOW that it is experiencing pain:
“Once the activation wave was started in the nerve fibers, it traveled to the spinal cord and a chain of signals was produced across several neurons(a neuron is a nerve cell) and several synapses (a synapse is the point where two neurons connect and transmit signals) along the appropriate pathways. The signals went all the way into the top levels of the nervous system: the brain stem, the thalamus, and even the cerebral cortex. (Damasio/FWH/72)”
“What happened as a result of the succession of signals? Ensembles of neurons located at several levels of the nervous system were temporarily activated and the activation produced a neural pattern, a sort of map of the signals related to the injury in your fingers [or infant’s body from blows]. The central nervous system was now in possession of multiple and varied neural patterns of tissue damage selected according to the biological specifications of your nervous system and of the body proper with which it connects. The conditions needed to generate a sensation of pain had been met. (Damasio/FWH/72)”
Now this brings us to
“The question that I am leading to arrives at this point…. (Damasio/FWH/72)”
At what point? At what point can it be said that this ability to KNOW exists within an infant’s brain?
Damasio continues after the above paragraph from page 73:
“Curiously, if there had been no you, i.e., if you were not conscious and if there had been no self and no knowing relative to hot plates and burning fingers [or caregivers who maltreat tiny infant bodies], the wealthy machinery of your self-less brain would still have used the nociceptive [spelled correctly here] neural patterns generated by tissue damage to produce a number of useful responses. (Damasio/FWH/73)”
I think THIS is a point to pay close attention. The infant’s body is already establishing these patterns of response in response to trauma, well before there is a self.
“For instance, the organism would have been able to withdraw the arm and hand from the source of heat within hundreds of milliseconds of the beginning of tissue damage, a reflex process mediated by the central nervous system. (Damasio/FWH/73)”
This reflex is an active coping mechanism. What happens when a tiny infant or child cannot withdraw!!
- For instance, many of (Damasio/FWH/73) these responses are present evening comatose patients in whom consciousness is suspended (Damasio/FWH/74)”
“But whether or not you are conscious, tissue damage and the ensuing sensory patterns also cause the variety of automated responses outlined above, from a simple limb withdrawal to a complicated negative emotion. In short, pain and emotion are not the same thing. (Damasio/FWH/74)”
So an infant whose brain has not yet developed the neural pathways to “you” can feel pain – but this is not an emotion.
So – and this includes an attachment perspective – at what point did I know that it was my primary caregiver that was hurting me? This is not a trivial question. It is a kingpin question.
“…dissociation between pain as such and emotion caused by pain…. (Damasio/FWH/74)”
“…dissociation between “pain sensation” and “pain affect”…. (Damasio/FWH/75)”
I think this is the first that he has used the word “affect”
“Hypnotic suggestions designed to influence pain affect specifically without altering pain sensation modulated cerebral activity within the cingulate cortex, the same overall region that neurosurgeons can damage to alleviate suffering from chronic and intractable pain….. In brief: hypnotic suggestions aimed at the emotions that follow pain rather than at pain sensation reduced emotion but not pain sensation and also caused functional changes in cingulate cortex only; hypnotic suggestions aimed at pain sensation reduced both pain sensation and emotion, and caused functional changes in S1 [the primary somatosensory cortex] and in the cingulate cortex. Perhaps you have had the direct experience of what I am describing if you have ever taken beta-blockers to (Damasio/FWH/75) treat a heart-rhythm problem or if you have taken a tranquilizer such as Valium. Those medications reduce your emotional reactivity, and should you also have pain at the time, they will reduce the emotion caused by pain. (Damasio/FWH/76)”
This would be useful to look up right now online if I had internet access. I know the give therapists going in to work with trauma beta-blockers. How does physical pain relate to emotional pain?
Mention of beta-blockers lets me know this DOES have something to do with trauma.
“…It is possible to block emotion and not pain. The would-be emotion caused by tissue damage can be reduced by appropriate drugs, e.g., Valium or beta-blockers, or even by selective surgery. The perception of tissue damage remains but the blunting of emotion removes the suffering that would have accompanied it. (Damasio/FWH/76)”
“Is pleasure an emotion? Again, I would prefer to say it is not, although, just like pain, pleasure is intimately related to emotion. Like pain, pleasure is a constituent quality of certain emotions as well as a trigger for certain emotions. While pain is associated with negative emotions, such as anguish, fear, sadness, and disgust, whose combination commonly constitutes what is called suffering, pleasure is associated with many shades of happiness, pride, and positive background emotions. (Damasio/FWH/76)”
Maybe could be thought of as an ingredient, to be eaten alone or mixed with other circumstances to produce other products – states of mind and of emotion.
“Pain and pleasure are part of biological design for obviously adaptive purposes, but they do their job in very different circumstances. Pain is the perception of a sensory representation of local living-tissue dysfunction. In most circumstances when there is actual or impending damage to living tissues there arise signals that are transmitted both chemically and via nerve fibers…, and appropriate representations are created in the central nervous system, at multiple levels. In other words, the organism is designed to respond to the actual or threatened loss of integrity of its tissue with a particular type of signaling. The signaling recruits a host of chemical and neural responses all the way from local reactions of white blood cells, to reflexes involving an entire limb, to a concerted emotional reaction. (Damasio/FWH/76)”
So the body is responding not just to some vague and nonspecific threat to life, but to a specific threat to the integrity of its tissues.
“Pleasure arises in a different setting….pleasure is commonly initiated by a detection of imbalance, for instance, low blood sugar or high osmolaity. The unbalance leads to the state of hunger or thirst…which leads in turn to certain behaviors involving the search for food or water…which leads to the eventual acts of eating or drinking…..The pleasurable state may begin during the search process, in anticipation of the actual goal of the search, and increase as the goal is achieved. (Damasio/FWH/77)”
This makes me think of how Schore describes the infant in anticipation of a caregivers joining it in excitement about discoveries in the world – and then the “crash” of shame when this excitement is not matched or attuned to. This is a search of a social nature, because we are a social species with social needs.
“”A search for food or drink that takes too long or is unsuccessful will not be accompanied by pleasure and positive emotions at all. Or, if in the course of a successful search, an animal is prevented from actually achieving its goal, the thwarting of the consummation may actually cause anger….the alleviation or suspension of a state of pain may cause the emergence of pleasure and positive emotions. (Damasio/FWH/77)”
“The point to retain here is the possible interrelationship between pain and pleasure and the attending emotions, as well as the fact that they are not the mirror image of each other. They are different and asymmetric physiological states, which underlie different perceptual qualities destined to help with the solution of very different problems. (Damasio/FWH/77)”
“In the case of pain, the problem is coping with the loss of integrity of living tissue as a result of injury, be it internally caused by natural disease or externally induced by the attack of a predator or by an accident. (Damasio/FWH/77)”
Here realizing that the infant’s caregiver can be the predator and attack the infant.
“In the case of pleasure, the problem is to (Damasio/FWH/77) lead an organism to attitudes and behaviors that are conducive to the maintenance of its homeostasis. (Damasio/FWH/78)”
Pleasure then being concerned with maintaining the set point, the center point of balanced equilibrium.
“…pain does not result in preventing yet another injury, at least not immediately, but rather in protecting the injured tissue, facilitating tissue repair, and avoiding infection of the wound. (Damasio/FWH/78)”
So pain happens after the fact, in retrospect actually. It is not a proactive response. It redresses a wrong. It is restorative, reparative.
Pain is past oriented, and deals with what has already happened.
Tied to a restorative system
“Pleasure, on the other hand, is all about forethought. It is related to the clever anticipation of what can be done not to have a problem. At this basic level, nature found a wonderful solution: it seduces us into good behavior. (Damasio/FWH/78)”
Pleasure is proactive and preventative.. It is future oriented and designed to prevent what could or might happen.
Tied to a system of prevention and prediction.
My suspicion is that if an infant is raised in peritrauma without the correct stimulation of positive emotions tied to the pleasure aspect of the ANS, then it somehow connects to the brain not having the ability to detect images or blueprints for conceiving of a future, preparing for it, or operating in it. When pleasure is not built into the brain, the sense of the future might not be, either. We consider that the brain can formulate “future” on its own – “It ain’t necessarily so.”
“Pain and pleasure are thus part of two different genealogies of life regulation. Pain is aligned with punishment and is associated with behaviors such as withdrawal or freezing. (Damasio/FWH/78)”
“Punishment causes organisms to close themselves in, freezing and withdrawing from their surroundings. (Damasio/FWH/78)”
Like the shame reaction.
“Pleasure, on the other hand, is aligned with reward and is associated with behaviors such as seeking and approaching. (Damasio/FWH/78)”
“Reward cause organisms to open themselves up and out toward their environment, approaching it, searching it, and by so doing increasing both their opportunity of survival and their vulnerability. (Damasio/FWH/78)”
This is a “fundamental duality” (Damasio/FWH/78) – does not require a brain
“The essence of joy and sadness, of approach and avoidance, of vulnerability and safety, are as apparent in this simple dichotomy of a brainless behavior [response of a sea anemone to threat or non-threat] as they are in the mercurial emotional changes of a child at play. (Damasio/FWH/79)”
“The substrate for the representation of emotions is a collection of neural dispositions in a number of brain regions located largely in subcortical nuclei of the brain stem, hypothalamus, basal forebrain, and amygdala. (Damasio/FWH/79)”
“In keeping with their dispositional status, these representations are implicit, dorman, and not available to consciousness. They exist, rather, as potential patterns of activity arising within neuron ensembles. (Damasio/FWH/79)”
“Once these dispositions are activated, a number of consequences ensue. On the one hand, the pattern of activation represents, within the brain, a particular emotion as neural “object.” (Damasio/FWH/79)”
“On the other hand, the pattern of activation generates explicit responses that modify both the state of the body proper and the state of other brain regions. (Damasio/FWH/79)”
“By doing to, the responses create an emotional state, and at that point, an external observer can appreciate the emotional engagement of the organism being observed.
“As for the internal state of the organism in which the emotion is taking place, it has available both the emotion as neural object (the activation pattern at the induction sites) and the sensing of the consequences of the activation, a feeling, provided the resulting collection of neural patterns becomes images in mind. (Damasio/FWH/79)”
Something having to do with PTSD, in my mother’s case for example, prevents this part of the process from “coming to life.” I don’t think she ever had that “mentalizing space” to introjects her self in between the emotion and the action by thinking, observing or reflecting to herself, “I am having this feeling. What should I or should I not do as a result?”
“The neural patterns which constitute the substrate of a feeling arise in two classes of biological changes: changes related to body state and changes related to cognitive state. (Damasio/FWH/79)”
“The changes related to body state are achieved by one of two mechanisms. (Damasio/FWH/79)”
“One involves what I call the (Damasio/FWH/79) “body loop.” It uses both humor signals (chemical messages conveyed via the bloodstream) and neural signals (electrochemical messages conveyed via nerve pathways. As a result of both types of signal, the body landscape is changed and is subsequently represented in somatosensory structures of the central nervous system, for the brain step on up. (Damasio/FWH/80)”
“The change in the representation of the body landscape can be partly achieved by another mechanism, which I call the “as if body loop.” In this alternate mechanism, the representation of body-related changes is created directly in sensory body maps, under the control of other neural sites, for instance, the prefrontal cortices. It is “as if” the body had really been changed but it was not. (Damasio/FWH/80)”
“The changes related to cognitive state…. Occur when the process of emotion leads to the secretion of certain chemical substances in the nuclei of the basal forebrain, hypothalamus, and brain stem, and to the subsequent delivery of those substances to several other brain regions. (Damasio/FWH/80)”
“When these nuclei release certain neuromodulators (such as monoamines) in the cerebral cortex, thalamus, and basal ganglia, they cause several significant alterations of brain function. The full range of alterations is not completely understood yet, but here are the most important I envision:
(1) the induction of specific behaviors such as those aimed at generating bonding, nurturing, exploration, and playing;
What about attack and/or destroy?
(2) a change in the ongoing processing of body states such that body signals may be filtered or allowed to pass, be selectively inhibited or enhanced, and their pleasant or unpleasant quality modified; and
I don’t think my mother had a filter. I think PTSD affects these filters, what passes or doesn’t pass, what is inhibited or enhanced, and prevents or changes quality modification
(3) a change in the mode of cognitive processing such that, for example, the rate of production of auditory or visual images can be changed (from slow to fast or vice versa) or the focus of images can be changed (from sharply focused to vaguely focused); changes in rate of production or focus are an integral part of emotions as disparate as those of sadness or elation. (Damasio/FWH/80)”
I think my mother suffered from defects here, as well. How could she sustain the length of the beatings the way she did? She could go on for hours and only stop when she was exhausted, only to resume them once rested. Time was not the same for her – which is a characteristic of peritrauma
That would affect speed and duration
And what about her change of focus? She projected onto me. Instead of having her focus internally where all the ick really was, or was supposed to be, it was projected externally onto me. That is a change of focus.
Memory distortions and reenactments of trauma change focus. She was seeing what was not there in me and she did not know it.
- Her feeling states would escalate and grow in intensity and duration. She was focused – or was it the other way around? Did her focus become increasingly dispersed, blurred, and nonspecific so that I just became some “fuzzy” and vague entity upon which she heaped her abuses in some twisted attempt to rid herself of what she considered intolerable to her psyche and being?
The nonspecific nature of her attacks on me – that they really had nothing to do with what I did or who I was. Hence, I did not cause them and I could not predict them. There was nothing I could do to avoid them. They were not personal, even though they, of course, felt extremely personal as I was the one she hated and attacked.
There was something wrong with her “representational process.” She must not have “imaged” her feelings correctly, because I don’t think she had the ability to “feel” her emotions separately from acting them out. This would be PTSD reenactment!! This does not contain a consciousness component. Is that the same thing as saying it is an automatic “reaction” or “action?”
If so, then in a way her actions toward me were invisible to her. Like Christ said on the cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
It reminds me of her dark rainbow dream, with the storm on the outside, the doorway and the threshold, and no storm on the inside – but more importantly, the storm had vanished when she tried to look out the door and show the woman on the inside the terrible winds “out there.” From the place of safety, the storm does not even exist – and therefore is invisible. Or vice versa?
Maybe it is like entrance into a black hole, where everything changes.
“Assuming that all the proper structures are in place, the processes reviewed above allow an organism to undergo an emotion, exhibit it, and image it, that is, feel the emotion. But nothing in the above re-(Damasio/FWH/80) view indicates how the organism could know that it was feeling the emotion it was undergoing. For an organism to know that it has a feeling, it is necessary to add the process of consciousness in the aftermath of the processes of emotion and feeling. (Damasio/FWH/81)”
Fascinating ramifications considering that preschoolers with preoccupied attachments ALREADY have blurred boundaries as to who is suffering the distress – self or the other.
To know that the organism is having a feeling – separate from others having a feeling.
This makes me believe to the point of knowing for a certainty that the difficulties are already established by the preschool age – not afterwards – within the brain circuitry itself.
The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness
Harcourt Brace & Company
Antonio R. Damasio
chapter nine feeling feelings
“The process can only be understood when we keep in mind some of the notions introduced in the chapters on emotion (chapter 2) and on the organism (chapter 5), namely: (1) that there are several brain sites whose activity pattern induces the cortege of actions that become an emotion, and (2) that the activity pattern can be represented within second-order brain structures. Examples of emotion induction sites include nuclei in the hypothalamus, brain stem, basal forebrain, amygdala, and ventromedial prefrontal cortices. Examples of second-order structures include thalamus and cingulate cortices. (Damasio/FWH/280)”