Response flexibility, relationships, and emotion

Orbitofrontal cortex central to process of creating meaning and emotion

(see long quote from pp 139-140 that is over in BRAIN NOTES part 2)

Mentions orbitofrontal cortex link to autism, re Baron-Cohen’s work


“Thus, response flexibility can be proposed to be a contributing link between parent-child attachment and adult narratives.  In situations where this function fails to develop or its integration with other processes is impaired, especially with those mediated by the prefrontal regions, we can predict that tenacious, global effects may be exerted across time.  (copied earlier to TIME NOTES) As with other mental processes, response flexibility is likely to be state-dependent:  Internal and interpersonal contexts can promote or inhibit the integrative mechanisms on which they are created.  In this manner, response flexibility can be seen as an integrative capacity that is achieved under certain conditions, rather than a fixed developmental accomplishment.  For these reasons, an individual may exhibit this adaptive flexibility in certain situations and not in others….the ways in which emotional states flexibly integrate and organize widely distributed internal and interpersonal processes – the manner in which the flow of energy and information is adaptively modulated – can be seen as having a direct effect on self-regulation, relationships, and development across the lifespan.  (I did not put the last sentence of this paragraph in here) (siegel/tdm/141)”


nest paragraph is over in BRAIN NOTES


this paragraph is also copied into BRAIN NOTES

“Emotion is a fundamental part of attachment relationships in the early years and throughout the lifespan.  The earliest forms of communication are about primary emotional states.  This sharing of basic appraisal and arousal processes establishes the fundamental way in which one person becomes connected to another within emotional relationships.  We can also propose that the reciprocal collaboration within such contingent communication facilitates the development of a parallel, prefrontally mediated process, response flexibility, that enables the individual to respond to changing internal and interpersonal contexts in an adaptive, “internally collaborative” manner (siegel/tdm/142).  Such internal collaboration may be seen as a way in which widely distributed neural processes come to be recruited into a flexible state of mind, one that is adaptive to a arrange of internal as well as external factors.  In this way, we can see how intimate, reciprocal human communication may directly activate the neural circuitry responsible for giving meaning, integrating the capacity for flexible responses, and shaping the subjective experience of living an emotionally vibrant life (siegle/tdm/143)”


emotion and somatic response

bodily signals and feedback – “directly shape our emotions” – “lets us know how we feel, though bodily feedback occurs even without awareness.  (tdm/143)”

“Perceptions of the environment certainly occur in the brain, but the subsequent reactions of the body may follow very soon after and become the “data” informing us about what those perceptions mean to us.  In this way, our appraisal mechanisms may depend upon bodily reactions to determine the direction of subsequent elaboration.  States of mind are created within the psychobiological states of the brain and other parts of the body. (tdm/143)”

rest is over in BRAIN NOTES


“Experience establishes learned associations between external stimuli and these bodily responses.  In this view, our knowledge of how we feel is based in large part upon the nature of these somatic markers….Our brains create a representation of bodily changes that is independent of the present-day response.  A thought can be associated with an emotional response containing a somatic marker that has been generated internally.  This is a representation of a shift in bodily state created by our brains from imagination and past experiences.  Memories of emotional experiences evoke as-if somatic markers, which can feel as real as direct bodily responses and can deeply enliven the associated imager of the recollection.  In some cases we will also have the actual bodily changes, such as increased heart rate, sweating, and dilated pupils when we are recalling a past frightening event (tdm/144).”

“…An “as-if” somatic marker reveals how the process of imagination or memory can elicit a sensory response, which then initiates a cascade of fear-related associations that may be quite debilitating.  This may be one way in which unresolved posttraumatic conditions continue to perpetuate frightening reactions from long ago; such individuals feel as if they are being traumatized over and over again (tdm/144).”


I think I feel this way around and about people.  I feel terribly alone, and yet I do not like to be around people – again, like I have an allergy.  Being alone seems to trigger horrible feelings of being absolutely alone, fundamentally alone and isolated.  Yet being around people, like today out at the Rollag steam thrasher’s reunion felt like total sensory and emotional overload.

With the idea of “somatic marker,” the trigger is that I AM alone!  But I am also alone when I am with those I love, because I am so hyperaware that it is temporary….the my real and lasting state is of being alone.  It is a vicious cycle, and so far without cure.

Ernie is right, there is never enough.  Not enough for someone to “make” me feel loved, and no way I can love those I love enough, either.


individual differences in emotional experience

“ Recall that studies of avoidantly attached pairs reveal that the body continues to register distress during separation (for children) and in discussion of attachment issues (in adults).  This finding suggests that the original value system, which assigned a “good” meaning to affective connections between people, has probably remained intact even after repeatedly disappointing and rejecting experiences.  What has been learned is the person’s development of behavioral and complex cognitive responses, such as memory and narrative, that serve to minimize conscious access to this persistent distress.  The brain has learned to adapt itself to the learned experience by minimizing the manifestations of such distress on other aspects of mental functions.  (tdm/145)”  (this paragraph is also copied into SELF NOTES)

Boy, does this speak of Ernie and me!

“In this couple, the wife’s experience of her husband was that in a quiet way he seemed to enjoy her presence.  To her, his lack of focus on her emotional states provided a sense of first safety and then frustration….On some nonverbal level, she felt that her husband liked being “close” to her, though he would never state this directly.  She was probably sensing something real – an intact but frightened emotional system in her husband, which did indeed continue to value attachment.  But on the surface of his behavior and in his conscious experience, however, he denied the importance of such connections.  In fact, the husband seemed to pride himself on his autonomy, often stating that the sign of healthy development is to (tdm/145) “not need anyone, just want them.”  His wife did not feel needed.  She often didn’t even feel wanted.

“With many couples, the very characteristics that each partner initially found attractive in the other become the same qualities that create intolerable frustration and drive them to a therapist for help.  In this couple, the wife was attracted at first to the husband’s “autonomy and independence.”  She felt safe and unthreatened by his emotional distance.  The husband liked his wife’s “sensitivity and ability to express her emotions.”  She offered him something he had never had.  As time went on, however, she began to feel so isolated that his autonomy made her infuriated.  He began to sense her emotional response as attacks on his personality.  This couple became stuck in an emotional rut. (siegel/tdm/146)”


she knew, as I knew with Ernie, that he would never overwhelm her emotionally—as my mother had completely overwhelmed me


“able to notice changes in her body’s sensations…..The ability to sense this somatic feedback is the kind of self-awareness that has led numerous researchers to postulate that the body’s response lets us know how we feel. (siegel/tdm/146)

“Somatic markers – actual or “as if” – can be generated without consciousness.  These representations can influence perceptual bias, memory processes, and rational decision making without our awareness….(siegel/tdm/146)”

(I am copying this over to SELF NOTES)


people can “minimize distress and maximize function” by focusing “conscious attention away from attachment-related experiences” —-will not be aware consciously that any biasing is happing….working memory processes will manipulate awareness and perceptual representations, and awareness of states of the body (as if they do not matter consciously)….(boy, I have seen this with Ernie, but how to be with it, live with it, work with it, heal it?)


(this is all copied into BRAIN NOTES)

“A distressed response is most readily seen in the body’s state of increased sweating, heart rate, respiration, and muscle tension.  Each of these may become activated in attachment situations within avoidantly attached children and dismissing adults.  To avoid impairment of functioning, (which my mother couldn’t do, and I barely can) the representation of these responses must be kept away from working memory (we are not able to do this). To accomplish such a task means creating a pattern of neural interactions in which somatic markers are not linked to the working memory processes of the lateral prefrontal cortex.

“Given the location of these processes, we can hypothesize….the cortical representations of somatic muscle responses are most highly integrated in the right hemisphere of the brain.  Visceral responses are monitored by the orbitofrontal cortex and the closely associated anterior cingulated, also primarily on the right side.  The lateral prefrontal cortex is centered just to the side of the orbitofrontal cortex, with which it receives and sends direct connections.  Reduction in input to the right lateral prefrontal cortex would be quite helpful to avoid receiving the representations of the right-sided somatosensory and orbitofrontal cortices.

“….Impaired input of the right-sided sources of somatic markers would functionally lead such individuals to be consciously unaware of their bodies’ responses.  They would therefore not be able to know easily how they feel.  Furthermore, if the right lateral prefrontal cortex has more general blockages, we would predict that the other functions of the right hemisphere might also be less accessible to conscious awareness….difficult time seeing the gist or context of things….unable to read his wife’s state of mind as expressed through her nonverbal signals.  Such difficulties are all problems in functions of the right hemisphere….(siegel/tdm/147)”


emotional communication:  empathy and affective expression

important social function of emotions

“Emotions, both primary and categorical, serve as the vehicles that allow one person to have a sense of the mental state of another.  The capacity to feel another person’s experience has many labels, such as “empathy,” “sympathy,” “mirroring,” and “attunement.”  In its essence, the ability of one mind to perceive and then experience elements of another person’s mind is a profoundly important dimension of human experience.  We are a social species, and having the ability to “mind-read,” or having “mindsight,” lets us rapidly detect the emotional state of another.  Why is this so important?  There are several reasons.  This form of communication allows us to perceive the intentions, attentional focus, and evaluation of events in others; it therefore allows us to understand social interactions and anticipate the behavior of other people.  Our minds are capable of detecting the nonverbal signals of others, which reveal these internal aspects of their states of mind.  (siegel/tdm/148)”

(This is one of my trouble areas, and the trouble area of my mother…..did I turn this off during the horror with mother?)

“Young infants begin to differentiate between animate and inanimate objects in the world, attributing intention and emotional responses to the former and not to the latter.  (I don’t think this happened normally for us.  The people are like objects) With the assignment of intention, our minds are able to compare external behaviors with implied internal motivational states.  This ability allows us to detect “cheaters” and note when we are being misled.  (tdm/148)

(NO!  This is not true for us!  This is a BINGO, though I don’t yet know what it means.  I believe we remain innocent, and guileless….innocent like Temple Grandin states—-we cannot detect guile, nor read cues….with infant abuse, is this non-ability tied to the paradoxical injunction and the unsolvable problem? And, we cannot therefore protect ourselves…..we also cannot determine safety accurately, a related and connected problem..see below, the issue of security)

“A further evolutionary benefit of mindsight is that our ancestors could rapidly sense when a member of their own social group was detecting danger by the look on her face, her gestures, or her tone of voice.  Those social beings capable of such mindsight escaped danger more often, were less often tricked by the destructive motivations of others, and (siegle/tdm/148) thus were more likely to survive and pass on the capacity for such state-to-state lines of communication (siegel/tdm/149)”

reminds me of the powder puff


This is copied also into SELF NOTES and BRAIN NOTES

“From a developmental perspective, the most utilitarian of these benefits is that parents can sense the inner needs of their children and therefore maximize the potential of their offspring’s survival.  Another benefit of empathic attunement is that it creates an attachment bond between parent and child, which provides a source of increasingly complex layers of external and then internal security for the growing child in the increasingly challenging world encountered as he develops.  The experience of being understood develops a mental model or inner expectation that needs are important and goals are achievable.  Also, the child’s system requires the parent’s attunement to help organize the child’s own mind.  Positive emotional states are amplified and negative ones modulated within these attuned communications.  As the child grows, these repeated alignments of mental states allow him to develop a self-organized capacity for autonomous state regulation.  Human infants have profoundly underdeveloped brains.  Maintaining proximity to their caregivers is essential, both for survival and for allowing their brains to use the mature states of the attachment figure to help them organize their own mental functioning.

“The subjective side of these emotional connections is that it allows a sense of belonging to grow within the individual.  “Feeling felt” is the subjective experience of mental state attunement.  The pleasurable response to such a resonance of minds may be built into our brains as a genetic inheritance of evolutionary history.  For us as social animals, our having a such a sense encourages group behavior, which has been of great survival value to our species as we evolved….” (siegle/tdm/149)”


this is copied into BRAIN NOTES

“Empathic emotional connections require some way in which internal states are expressed externally.  Primates are the only group of animals with muscle endings on the skin of the face; this gives us the capacity for a huge assortment of facial expressions, which are directly controlled by our nervous systems.  Our tremendously rich enervation allows for exquisitely subtle and rapid alterations in facial (siegel/tdm/149) expression.  To match this expressive ability, primates have neuronal groups in the brain that are specialized to respond to faces, and also to particular facial expressions!  As we’ve discussed, these neuronal groups often rest in the value system circuits of our brains, such as in the amygdala and orbitofrontal cortex.  We are hard-wired to express emotional states through the face.  (boy ,my mother’s face showed it all!)

“Complex neural/bodily aspects of emotional processes are not easily translated into words.  Nonverbal expressions, including those of the face, tone of voice, and gestures, can transfer information about internal states more fully to the outside world than words can do.  When anyone asks, “How are you feeling?”, it is a huge translational challenge to turn such subtle and dynamic neural processes into a verbal statement.  Emotion can be seen as an energizing drive toward motion.  Seeing what a person does, rather than asking her how she feels, can often be a more direct road into the person’s emotional state….The message is in the medium of how we respond, not in the words alone.

“The link between emotion and action is in the appraisal-arousal foundation of these processes.  At their core, appraisals define what is good or bad, what should be approached or avoided….(siegle/tdm/150)”


emotion and the hemispheres

I am putting this over in BRAIN NOTES

“The right hemisphere therefore appears to play a major role in mediating emotional processes, as well as in permitting the expression of emotional states and the conscious awareness of emotional experience.  (siegel/tdm/151)”

(copy last sentence into EMOTION NOTES and SELF NOTES)


“Appraisal and arousal occur on both sides of the brain, as do other emotional processes.  However, the subjective experience and the nature of emotion on either side of the brain may be quite different. (siegel/tdm/151)”


subjective experience

“Emotion is inherently a subjective experience involving the evaluation of meaning and the interaction with the environment.  Experiences evoke within us textured subjective states that create the fabric of our lives and our relationships with others.  Music has been described as one of the purest expressions of emotions that exists.  It is filled with contours and spacing, varied intensities, and modulations in sound.  These could be considered as categorical features (siegle/tdm/152) such as joy or sadness, but perhaps they are more appropriately reflecting profiles of arousal so parallel to vitality affects that we could call primary emotions the “music of the mind.”  The process of creating and listening to music is a form of emotional experience and affective communication.  (siegle/tdm/153)”

“….Sound heard with the left ear may induce a more holistic sensation, a floating with the flow of the music, quite distinct from the sensation produced by music heard with the right ear.  How can this be?  The left auditory nerve goes primarily to the right hemisphere!  Though there is some crossover, the auditory stimulation in the right brain appears to evoke a different sensation from that which goes to the left brain from the right ear.  (tdm/153)”

“….attunement:  the feeling of another person’s experience.  Merely to understand another person requires an intellectual grasp of the other’s experience.  To have the ability to conceptualize the mind of another, as well as to perceive what the other’s subjective world might be like, requires special tools enabling…reflective functioning….The neurological bases of the tools have been established over thousands of years of evolution and are a fundamental part of the social circuitry of the brain so intimately related to emotional experience.  These circuits are located primarily in the right hemisphere.  To feel another person’s experience requires the ability to take in the essential data of how the other person in fact is feeling by way of specific signals generated by the other person.  These data then directly affect the receiver’s state of mind….words generated by the left hemisphere of one person are best perceived and understood by the left hemisphere of the listener.  What we are really talking about (siegel/tdm/153) are the forms of information that the mind is processing….the types of mental representations are quite distinct in each hemisphere.  (siegle/tdm/154)”

“Emotions recruit distributed clusters of neuronal groups in the emerging states of mind that organize the systems of the brain.  Recruitment can be generally defined here as a process that temporarily links distinct, differentiated elements into a functional whole.  In the brain, recruitment involves the binding of the activity of spatially distributed neural circuits at a given moment and across time.  Emotion can be proposed to serve this integrative role by way of its involvement of neuromodulatory systems that are themselves widely distributed and have direct effects on neural excitability and activation, neural plasticity and the growth of synaptic connections, and the coordination of a range of processes in the brain.  (siegel/tdm/154)”(copied into time notes)


“The finding that the right hemisphere has a more integrated representation of the body, including the face, suggests that this form of information will have more impact on the experience of emotion on the right side of the brain.  (siegel/tdm/154)”


“…those parents who have the capacity to reflect on the importance of mental states are more likely to have secure attachments with their children.  This reflective function is revealed in both affective attunements and the ability of these individuals to state, in words, the importance of mental states in human experience.  In fact, the ability to use “mental state language” – words reflecting mentalizing concepts, such as beliefs, feelings, attitudes, intentions, and thoughts – is associated with parents of children with secure attachments.  These ideas can inspire an approach to creating “reflective dialogues” with children in order to help them develop emotionally.  In this way, having the capacity for reflecting in one’s own mind on the importance of mental life can be revealed in both attuned (nonverbal) and language-based communication.  Using both our nonverbal right and verbal left hemispheres, we can find ways to communicate the important subjective emotional experience of ourselves and others.  (siegel/tdm/155)”


see rest in self notes


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