For as long as ‘why’ has been a question, the sleeping reality of dreaming has been a subject of fascination, some ‘intellectuals’ compare dreams to bowl movements, the brains evacuation system, a way of eliminating excess waste, data deletion from the hard drive, to use a computer analogy.
‘So why do lucid dreams ‘feel’ so amazingly real?’
Could it be that the ‘dream state’ was the proto-type of our waking consciousness?
In a chapter titled, “Sleep, Arousal, and Mythmaking in the Brain,” Jaak Panksepp, a leading researcher in the neurobiology of emotions, tells us “we are forced to contemplate the strange possibility that the basic dream generators are more ancient in brain evolution than are the generators of our waking consciousness” (P, 125.)
And of our REM dream state, he writes “Indeed perhaps what is now the REM state (dreaming) was the original form of waking consciousness in early brain evolution when emotionality was more important than reason” (P, 128.)
He also writes; “Many have suggested that schizophrenia reflects the release of dreaming processes into the waking state” (P, 127.) In this chapter, Panksepp alludes to the link between creativity and madness, suggesting that a mild reduction in ‘serotonin’ may help facilitate the generation of new ideas within the brain.
‘Ah Ha! The chemical imbalance,’ I hear you say.
Particularly when the author goes on to say, “just as low brain serotonin characterizes the dream state, it also promotes heightened emotionality, both positive and negative. It is a neurochemical state that leads to impulsive behavior in humans, even ones as extreme as suicide.”
I have no issue with the neurochemical reality of brain states, believing that the mind is a product of complex neurochemical activity within the brain. Although the ‘what happened’ inquiry into suicide victim’s revel a state of mind explainable as a chemical imbalance, it does not explain the processes that lead to such imbalances, the why and the how such neurochemical states are created.
For those of us that have experienced the hit and miss trails of chemicals introduced to address our imbalance’s, we long for the day when science understands more of the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ of electrochemical activity in the brain and the nervous system.
The title of Panksepp’s book is “Affective Neuroscience - THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN AND ANIMAL EMOTIONS,” and you may wonder why its called affective and not emotional neuroscience, if it deals with human and animal emotions.
‘Affect’ has become a crucial word in the recent evolution of our knowledge into the human condition, my own shift from objective observation theories, like most talk based psychotherapies came in a chance encounter with Allan N Schore, the ‘Einstein of Neurobiology’ as some have called him. I came across his book “Affect Dysregulation and Disorders of the Self,” while browsing in my favorite bookstore not long after a manic-depressive episode in 2007.
I remember the day well, as it was one of the last in my struggle to stay on ‘Lamactil,’ in a determined effort to control the chemical imbalance’s and stabilize my moods. Alas, chronic side effects got to me again, causing as much distress as the mood swings, and amplifying feelings of helplessness & depressive defeat.
‘Hey Doc, you try doing a days work, while on anti-psychotics,’ I see many nod in agreement as I write.
Schore’s book set me off in search of what exactly the word ‘affect’ means, and has led me closer to a place I had a huge reluctance to visiting, my body and its sensations, even though I expected to learn more about my brain. Even after three years of research I still haven’t found a satisfactory explanation of what exactly the term ‘affect’ implies, in the processes of brain and body.
Some writers use affect and emotion interchangeably, while the father of Affect Theory, Silvan Tomkins suggests there are only nine primary affects, which are the root of human emotions, he calls them innate affects suggesting that they are similar to instincts. Startle, Distress, Fear, Anger, Shame, Interest, Joy, Disgust and Dismell are Tomkins innate affects which are physiological, whole body reactions. Is this where animal instinct joins up with human emotion?
To date my own understanding of primary affects, is that they are discreet neural networks within the primitive layer of the brain, that fire on feedback signals from both the internal and external environments. Are these some of the neural networks in Freud’s concept of the unconscious?
‘So! What do innate affects have to do with dreams & delusions?’ I hear you ask.
Panksepp told us that “we are forced to contemplate the strange possibility that the basic dream generators are more ancient in brain evolution than are the generators of our waking consciousness” (P, 125.) And; “Indeed perhaps what is now the REM state (dreaming) was the original form of waking consciousness in early brain evolution when emotionality was more important than reason” (P, 128.)
Were innate affects, deep in the primitive layer of the brain the active ingredients in what Panksepp suggests was the original form of waking consciousness, when emotionality was more important than reason.
Further more he tells us that; “just as low brain serotonin characterizes the dream state, it also promotes heightened emotionality, both positive and negative.” If innate affects are the root of emotions, are innate affects involved in chemical imbalances like low serotonin.
We can see how powerful innate affects are in negative behaviors like road rage, an intense form of anger, we see someone so out of conscious control, its as if they become the rage state. Or have they slipped back into an original form of waking consciousness?
Are delusions then, a slipping back into this original form of waking consciousness when emotions were more important than reason, suggesting that it’s the emotions expressed during delusions that should be the focus of inquiry, not the muddled thinking.
Were innate affects-emotions more important than reason long ago because action and movement were the crucial elements of survival, e-motive movement towards or away from other animals? Some people suggest that all our complex emotions and behaviors can still be classified in terms of approach or avoidance. Are emotions a complex of instinct?
Those of us who experience ‘mania’ certainly know how much energy and movement is stimulated during this state. My own experience is one of high energy with very spiritual ideation perhaps affected by innate joy, which stimulates a slip into the evolutionary original form of waking consciousness that Panksepp speaks of.
During the delusional periods of mania do I become the state of innate joy, similar to what we see in episodes of behavior like road rage?
Are innate affects the roots of psychosis?
Do primary affects like Interest & Joy rouse us to life, while Startle, Distress, Fear, Anger, Shame, Disgust and Dismell rouse us to defend it, and does neurochemical imbalance reflect an imbalance of innate affect?
Such questions lead me to wonder if there may be a purpose to mania beyond other peoples fear of such states?
Tomkins tells us that innate affect is highly contagious, like infectious laughter or the wild fire spread of fear in panic situations. Can the learned psychiatrist separate his/her own innate reactions from the diagnosis and is the judgment of madness stimulated more by innate primary processes than intelligent insight?
In 2011 AD, we are only just beginning the journey within as the clever technologies that allow us to explore and expand our knowledge of the universe are turned towards the exploration of inner space.
During my heights of delusional mania I start to think that the notion of the ‘Last Judgment’ in the Christian Bible is a metaphor for the last generation of human beings who will unconsciously judge their fellow citizens based on ‘denied’ instinct.
‘Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do’ _Jesus Christ
But of coarse I’m certifiably crazy?
Panksepp, J, 1998, “Affective Neuroscience - THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN AND ANIMAL EMOTIONS,” Oxford University Press, USA.
Shcore, A, N, 2003, “Affect Dysregulation and Disorders of the Self,” W. W. Norton, USA.
Tomkins, S, S, 1995, “Exploring Affect - The Selected Writings of Silvan S, Tomkins,” Cambridge University Press, UK.