Affective Neuroscience - Dr Panksepp


The Living Force
Dr Jaak Panksepp is the pioneer of affective neuroscience. Affective neuroscience takes an experimental neuroscience based approach to study feelings and emotions. It has been relatively well-known that one could electrically stimulate sub-cortical (or phylogenetically older) portions of the brain of animals to get emotional responses. Panksepp has isolated emotional circuits in the sub-cortical sections of mammalian brains to identify what he calls primary affective systems. He uses capital letters to denote these systems to indicate that they are primary and unconditioned. He has identified SEEKING, FEAR, ANGER, CARE, LUST, PANIC (separation distress) and PLAY as the primary affective systems.

These primary affective systems are the biophysical substrate on which emotional experience happens and do not depend on cognitive abilities which are governed by neo-cortical areas of the brain and are thoroughly conditioned by life experiences and language processes. The primary responses can be conditioned - like what Pavlov did with fear conditioning of dogs. With conditioning, one gets secondary and tertiary level processes which are studied extensively in scientific literature. Doing a survey of research conducted on emotions, one is confronted with a mind-boggling number of different theories - some based on philosophical speculations alone , while some are based on experimental evidence on conditioning - but they primarily study the mixed bag where cognitions are mixed up with emotions with little hope of extricating the two. This agrees very well with the 4th Way Work views of Gurdjieff and Mouravieff which states the problem of not having a pure emotion or pure thought. I think the work of Panksepp which goes very well with Porges' polyvagal theory (Porges endorses Panksepp's work) gives us some valuable insight into what constitutes our instinctive substratum. This also ties in to the foundation of System1 described in Kahnemann's "Thinking: Fast and Slow".

Here is a podcast for an interview with Dr Panksepp.

He talks about the the grant-dominated scientific research process that pervades the field as well as interesting highlights of his findings. He mentions experimental evidence which challenges the mainstream view that "thoughts create feelings". Here is an excerpt where he is talking about the primary response patterns being independent of higher cognitive processes

[quote author=Dr Panksepp]
No one can get these types of responses by stimulating higher parts of the brain. And you can do radical surgery on some laboratory animals, and take away the whole top of the brain. You literally take away the whole neocortex. It’s not difficult surgery, because the animal in a laboratory doesn’t need the neocortex to live. That’s for reason and for intelligent responses to the world— complex memories—and a rat in a lab doesn’t need those. And, lo and behold, you cannot tell the difference.

Once I had an undergraduate laboratory class on animal behavior and the brain. I had 16 students, and I said, ‘The last experiment you are going to do is I’m going
to bring two animals into the lab; one of them is missing the whole neocortex— taken away at three days of life—and the other animal will have gotten sham
surgery. And the mother takes care of them, and they grow just like normal.’

‘Your job is to tell me who’s who. You have spent a semester studying animal behavior, and you make your choice in whatever way you wish.’ When the two hour lab was finished, 12 of the 16 students had selected the decorticate animal as being the normal one. That was a statistically significant error. Unbelievable! I did not expect that—I expected a coin toss.

When I debriefed the students and we discussed what they were basing their decision on, the bottom-line answer was that the decorticate animal was more
interesting. It was moving around, looking, poking its nose here and there. It was lively. Its emotional systems were disinhibited.

And that’s what they based their decision on—that an interesting animal must have its full brain. Well, the intact animal was sitting in a corner, kind of scared,
acting a little stupid. What this tells us is that the emotional system simply cannot be upstairs.

Dr Panksepp's work is stimulating psycho-therapeutic approaches. He writes

[quote author=Dr Panksepp in Healing Power of Emotions]
An understanding of how primary-process emotion can either enrich or derail human lives is essential for scientific progress of all types of psychotherapy, as well as a new generation of a new neuroscience foundation for psychiatry and psychotherapy.
Currently, psychotherapeutically relevant cognitive issues remain more slippery than our understanding of basic emotions. We can easily reach moments of therapeutic clarity in the midst of clinical sessions only to rapidly have all that progress slip away when clients, on their own between sessions, regress to their old cognitive-affective habits. This is because each of the primary process emotions has enslaved large cognitive territories for its own self-serving purposes. The stranglehold that self-centered emotional systems can have on cogniitive processes can be overwhelmingly robust.
Reconsolidation of affective-cognitive memories needs to be a prime concern for therapy. ..It might also be possible to solidify therapeutic change if we learn to infuse therapeutic emotiona-cognitive change more directly from affectively rich body dynamics into the process of restructuring the mind.

The above dynamic is very familiar to those undertaking self Work along 4th Way lines. Here we use EE and journalling to approach the reconsolidation of such memories. Levines' work and other body oriented therapies also work on the same problem from a different focus area.

[quote author=Dr Panksepp in Healing Power of Emotions]
I would anticipate that clients will often experience enormous relief to be simply educated about their emotional primes and to recognize how they can become masters over these primes rather than being mastered by them. The mere act of learning about them as ancient evolutionary tools for living can take an enormous burden off troubled minds. A better understanding of our ancient emotional energies may allow individuals to better deal with the upsetting feelings of the brain and develop cognitive habits that help engender more positive feelings.

He talks about Affective Body-oriented Therapies (ABT) and identification of "emotional endo-phenotypes" to develop a sensitive, well-informed therapeutic approach for wholistic treatment of human maladies.
There is an affective neuroscience personality scale (ANPS) which is used to evaluate status of people on emotional primes (except LUST). I have not looked into it but overall, Panksepp's approach towards understanding emotions seems helpful.
Data said:
Thanks, obyvatel. Sounds like an interesting and helpful read. I've ordered the book.

I agree. The podcast was also amazing, especially concerning the "seeking" emotional system. It's too bad he didn't have more time to delve into the other systems in depth. The seeking system, according to Panksepp, is a cross-hypothalamic system located in the midbrain, and runs into the cortex through a medial forebrain bundle. Dopamine is obviously the leader of that system, and the neurons along the lateral hypothalamus are activated until the objective being sought is acquired and, as soon as it is taken away, this area immediately lights up again. Also, according to Panksepp, individuals are almost guaranteed to purchase an item when this area is lit up, as opposed to the insula, which, and this is new to me, regulates disgust. I was under the impression that the insula was responsible for conscious awareness of many different bodily states. I also see how the seeking emotional circuitry, intended for learning and future spiritual development, is purposefully hijacked by consumerism as the parable of the well of living water shows: “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” OSIT

And his venting about the sad state of affairs in science nowadays fit perfectly with the corruption of science theme that has been running on SOTT for a while now. It's always great to hear about it from a third party.

Definitely need to get the latest edition of his book when it comes out in September, but the old one will have to do for now. Thank you, this is great information to have.
The SEEKING system described by Panksepp is an interesting subject. This system is fundamental to humans and other animals and in Panksepp's words - it is the "explorer inside the brain that finds resources and motivates new discoveries."

[quote author=Dr Panksepp]

The SEEKING system mediates appetitive desire - that is the urge to find, consume and at times to hoard the fruits of the world. It is constituted of many chemical systems, but the one that provides major psychobehavioral "push" for the system, and best serves to highlight its anatomy, is the mesolimbic dopamine system....

This "appetitive motivational system" energizes the many engagements with the world as individuals seek goods from the environment as well as meaning from the everyday occurrences of life. We can recognize this system as a major foundational substrate for Spinoza's concept of conatus - a system that energizes "our intentions in actions".

Animals come to "desire" to self-activate - to self-stimulate - this system in addictive ways. Activation of the system is "rewarding". Practically all addictive drugs (especially psychostimulants) and addictive behaviors (eg compulsive gambling, sex, listening to music) derive motivational push and craving from the dopaminergic part of this positively motivated SEEKING system. Although highly resolved cognitive information descends into this system, the dopamine neurons of the VTA pass on a simple message : to behave in appetitively aroused, goal-directed ways, increasingly directed towards environmental cues that predict rewards as well as safety in dangerous situations.

Recent work indicates that this system contributes substantially to socio-sexual bonds and loving feelings, even to musical thrills. The many interactions of the SEEKING system with higher brain regions highlight the degree to which basic emotive state-control systems can link up with cognitive systems that mediate secondary learning and tertiary thought processes, leading ultimately to awareness and thoughtful appraisals.
It is best to recruit this system in every form of psychotherapy, for it is the generalized substrate for all other emotional processes, from the establishment of social bonds to the seeking of safety in dangerous situations.

In other words, this is the horse which basically pulls the carriage in the Work analogy.

The dopaminergic system is not directly a pleasure giving system but an arousal system which runs on anticipation of a reward. While not mentioning Panksepp or the SEEKING system, Kelly McGonigall writes in Willpower Instinct

[quote author=Willpower Instinct]
A dopamine rush does not create happiness itself - the feeling is more like arousal. We feel alert, awake and captivated. We recognize the possibility of feeling good and and are willing to work for that feeling.
In the last few years, neuroscientists have given the effect of dopamine release many different names, including seeking, wanting, craving, and desire. But one thing is clear: it is not the experience of liking, satisfaction, pleasure or actual reward. Studies show that you can annihilate the entire dopamine system in a rat's brain, and it will still get a goofy grin on its face if you feed it sugar. What it won't do is work for the treat. It likes the sugar; it just doesn't want it before it has it.
She goes on to describe experiments by Stanford neuroscientist Brian Knutson which showed that dopamine's role in anticipating but not experiencing the reward. Knutson essentially conditioned his human subjects to expect monetary reward (by asking to press a button when a symbol appeared on the screen) and saw the dopamine releasing center of the brain light up in anticipation when the symbol appeared on the computer screen. But the same center quietened down when the actual reward was handed out. So the conclusion was that dopamine is for "action, not happiness".

Something to keep in mind regarding the SEEKING system is that it is subcortical in origin; so the urge to seek is subconscious to begin with which can then be reinforced or inhibited through conscious awareness.

Another interesting link with the SEEKING system lies in sleep - specifically REM sleep - which plays an important role in memory consolidation and learning. Regarding REM sleep, Panksepp writes

[quote author=Panksepp]
REM allows the basic emotional circuits of the brain to be accessed in a systematic way which may permit emotion related information collected during waking hours to be re-accessed and solidified as lasting memories in sleep. REM periods may allow some type of restructuring and stabilization of information that has been harvested into temporary memory stores. During REM, neural computations may be done on this partially stored information, and consolidation o may be strengthened on the basis of reliable predictive relationships that exists between various events that have been experienced. The dream may reflect the computational solidification process as different emotionally coded memory are reactivated, and the web of associated relationships is allowed to unreel once more and coalesce into long-term memories and plans, depending on the predominant patterns of reevaluation.

Taking this line, Fred Levin in "Emotion and the Psychodynamics of the Cerebellum" writes that
[quote author=Fred Levin]
Dreams are deeply meaningful, psychological and cognitive problem solving engines that are adaptive for the dreamer and his species.
We are asserting that one critical way adaptive learning follows from dreams is that dreaming generates strategies for actively checking upon and thus responding to potential dangers, including those emanating from internal psychological conflicts, and that is not until certain actions are taken and new important threat-related information discovered(confirmed or disconfirmed) that the final phase of learning occurs in the form of adaptive adjustments in the self.
The mind/brain has evolved multiple pathways that assist learning. And research supports the contention that the SEEKING system is critical for individuals learning of how rewards are likely to be obtained (in relation to what contingencies, actions etc) ..

Overall, the SEEKING system seems to be related to what Dabrowski described as the self-preservation instinct (for all animals and humans) as well as the self-perfection instinct that is a potential force for higher levels of human development.
obyvatel said:
In other words, this is the horse which basically pulls the carriage in the Work analogy. [...]

Overall, the SEEKING system seems to be related to what Dabrowski described as the self-preservation instinct (for all animals and humans) as well as the self-perfection instinct that is a potential force for higher levels of human development.

Also, more generally, it seems related to what Dabrowski called 'ekklisis', or the 'outward movement' of approach, attraction, etc. And in terms of Gurdjieff (and Keith Buzzell's works), perhaps to "Will".
obyvatel said:
Overall, the SEEKING system seems to be related to what Dabrowski described as the self-preservation instinct (for all animals and humans) as well as the self-perfection instinct that is a potential force for higher levels of human development.

Also, esoterically, it sounds a lot like an implementation of that command to Be! Laura has written about.
Philosophically and metaphysically, it sounds like Henri L. Bergson's 'elan vital' or 'vital impetus' and Robert Pirsig's 'Dynamic Quality'. In those works, 'thought' is being prodded to extend via evolution, OSIT. SEEKING as described, then, would be an implementation in a specific biological context.
FEAR/Anxiety system

[quote author=Dr Panksepp]
A basic FEAR system, remarkably similar across all mammals, provides a sentry function to alert organisms to all kinds of dangers that threaten the integrity of the body and of life itself. The core of this system interconnects central amygdalar regions via the ventral amygdalofugal pathways (VAFP) to anterior and medial hypothalamic regions, and then on to the periaqueductal gray (PAG). All along the trajectory of this trans-hypothalamic system, freezing and flight responses can be elicited with localized ESB, (electrical stimulation of brain) accompanied by appropriate autonomic arousals. Activity in this system is the unconditioned response that mediates classic conditioning of fear, with frozen postures when arousal of the system is modest (dorsal vagal complex mediated freeze response in polyvagal theory) and with intense flight when arousal is stronger (sympathetic system mediated flight response in polyvagal theory). .............

Humans stimulated in the same brain regions report being engulfed by an intense free-floating anxiety that appears to have no environmental cause . This system generates pure trepidation. .. This system is specially important for promoting generalized anxiety disorders, neurotic disorders, and specific phobias. It is possible to produce symptoms of PTSD simply by repeatedly stimulating this system.


[quote author=Dr Panksepp]
When young children get lost, they are thrown into a PANIC because they possess separation distress circuitry, a major source of psychic pain. They cry out for care and their feelings of sudden aloneness and distress reflect the ancestral neural codes of the separation-distress system from which adult sadness and grief are constructed.... The intrapsychic opain of social loss arises, in part, from brain systems that mediate separation distress calls. .. These systems parallel the CARE system to a substantial extent, for mothers need automatioc detection mechanisms for when care is most urgently needed.

Panksepp shows some evidence towards the hypothesis that depression is an evolutionary conserved mechanism to deal with separation distress. The prototype mammalian emotional state of separation distress becomes dangerous to infant mammals if it persists for long. After a phase or calling and crying to re-establish contact with caregiver, the infant system goes towards shutdown to conserve physiological resources and minimize risk of attracting predators. This is different compared to fear potentiated immobilization or "death-feigning" response in the face of imminent danger.

In adult depression one of the main characteristics is that the depressed individual loses the fundamental willingness and ability to struggle with challenging circumstances and basically "give up".

[quote author=Panksepp/Watt, 2009]

This "giving up" of core organism goals is a fundamental dimension to depression that any candidate theory must at least attempt to explain, and it certainly suggests that depression must have fundamental inhibitory effects on basic motivational systems in the brain, especially the SEEKING system. Indeed, if our core hypothesis about depression is correct - namely, that it emerges from an evolutionary selected mechanism to terminate protracted separation distress - such a putative shutdown mechanism would have to feedback on central motivational arousal mechanisms in the brain and attenuate siginificantly the ability of those mechanisms to energize behavior.

The paper goes on to provide neuroscientific experimental details on depression. One key finding has been that a specific area in the brain (Broadman's area 25) has been identified which when stimulated electrically promotes the disruption of the shutdown mechanism at the core of depression. Area 25 stimulation on clinically depressed patients showed reported results like "calmness and lightness", disappearance of depressive void, increased sense of awareness and interest, increased sense of social connectedness and caring coming from others. These affective changes were reversible and reproducible. Coming out of depression was directly dependent on area 25 mediated social connectedness and re-establishment of social bonds disrupted when separation distress kicked in. Panksepp states that more research is needed to elucidate precisely what goes on in the brain when patients transition from acute separation distress and sadness to more chronic states of depression.

[quote author=Dr Panksepp]
CARE and PANIC/GRIEF/Separation distress are the Janus faced twins of deep social attachments and it will be interesting to see how their shared chemistries, especially oxytocin and endogenous opioids, can eventually be used threapeutically. ......Many of us are waiting to see if supplementing therapeutic situations with nurturant activities can promote the release of endogenous opiods and oxytocin.......

Precipitous arousal of the separation-distress system may be one of the underlying causes for panic attacks. Our understanding of psychobiology of social attachments, which has largely arisen from work on these neurochemistries, is also being linked up with some preliminary understanding of childhood disorders like autism. Some children may be socially aloof partly because they are addicted to their own self-released opioids as opposed to those activated by significant others.

Negative affect that accompanies panic comes in several forms, suggesting that at least two distinct types of underlying processes need to be considered in panic disorders. The panic attack itself is a precipitous disconnection from the comforts of the everyday world, where a "black hole" opens up under an individual and his or her whole sense of security is temporarily demolished, often in time-limited ways as the emotional storm runs its course. Many simply see this as a sudden fear response; an alternative view is that this precipitous feeling of discomfort arises from sudden arousal of the PANIC/separation distress system (Bausch and Milrod, 2004). According to this non-traditional view, the FEAR system is largely involved in engendering the anticipatory anxiety that begins to fill the time between successive panic attacks. .... Thus while the feeling of panic may be due to the PANIC/separation distress system, the anticipatory anxiety is probably due more to the sustained arousal of the FEAR system .

If this view is correct, then animal models as well as clinical therapeutic enterprise need to be clear about how these two anxiety states differ. Do they have different sources in the brain? How do they interact? What needs to be done about each type of dysregulation? With a better understanding, we might be able to educate clients on how to best manage the unusual triggers in their emotional systems. For instance, when a panic attack is about to start, slow deep rhythmic breathing, along with concurrent active expression of happy movement dynamics, could abort the forthcoming attack. Then it might be a very different issue as to what we might do to minimize the sustained anticipatory anxiety that chronically darkens a person's life. Perhaps physical exercise along with meditative/mindfulness practices would help minimize such mood problems, allowing individuals to learn how to self-manage panic attacks.

PLAY system

Stephen Porges cites Panksepp's work in his polyvagal theory description of PLAY through the combined use of sympathetic arousal and the parasympathetic myelinated vagal system. Play is distinguished from aggressive behavior through moderating influence of social connectedness.

[quote author=Dr Panksepp]
Playfulness is probably an experience-expectant process that brings young animals to the perimeter of their social knowledge, to psychic places where they must learn about what they can or cannot do to each other. Play allows animals to be woven into their social structures in effective but friendly ways. ...... Young animals readily communicate how much they enjoy these activities, partly by play vocalizations (eg 50KHz chirp in rats) that can also be induced by tickling them. ......
I would suggest that any therapist who can capture the therapeutic moment in mutually shared play episodes will have brought the client to the gateway of happy living. To the extent that the client can be held there, in both body and mind, the therapist will have offered one of the greatest emotional gifts that psychotherapy, especially child therapy, can ever provide.

Higher Order Emotions

Regarding higher order emotions, Panksepp's view is that most of them arise from the basic emotional system interacting with learning and higher order cognitive and cultural processes, with strong social conditioning.

[quote author=Dr Panksepp]
All are rooted in the emotional primes, but they take on their form from specific life experiences rather than any known evolutionary epistemology that exists in our genetically dictated brain networks.

Panksepp's view is that if we can use the energies associated with prime emotional systems like SEEKING, CARE and PLAY in conjunction with cognitive restructuring, psychotherapeutic change can perhaps be solidified and more long-lasting. He criticizes the predominant cognitive behavioral schools of thought which work under the assumption that our thoughts create our feelings.

[quote author=Dr Panksepp]
The prevailing cognitive view of the mind remains starkly incomplete without affects. A common belief among cognitively oriented scholars is, albeit not therapists who deal with troubled human lives, is that being scared (derived from the basic feeling of fear) is caused largely by the way people think. That is the more obvious part of the cognitive-affective dynamics. The alternative they rarely consider, which every clinician must face, is that FEARful, RAGEful, and PANICy feelings have a mind of their own, a raw affective consciousness, that interacts with, and can run roughshod over, cognitive awareness. The internal forces of anxiety can restructure the cognitive apparatus so that troubled people can no longer recruit the power of their universal SEEKING urges and the positive social affects, from loving CARE to joyous PLAYfulness, that open up the rich possibilities of a deeply inquisitive, satisfying and LUSTy life. ....
The primary-process affects are internal signals indicating various intrinsic zones of comfort and discomfort in living. These positive and negative affects indicate the presence of an array of life supporting and life detracting environments. Through our affects we can learn more about such conditions of living by being connected to real-world events. The aim of therapy must be to restore a healthy appreciation for the mental and environmental conditions that promote well-being.
Metaphor - Emotion as a Force

Let us take a brief detour from neuroscience and look at some linguistic research on emotions.
When we talk about emotions, we use figurative language - specially metaphors. Zoltan Kovecses, author of "Metaphor and Emotion: Language, Culture and Body in Human Feeling", proposes a metaphor for general categorization of emotions which states EMOTION IS A FORCE. Kovecses comes to this metaphor after studying the "folk theory" of emotions, which is how common people conceive and talk about emotions in different languages across different cultures. As an example, a common anger metaphor is "pressurized hot fluid in a container". Thus, we say "he is boiling with anger"; "she is smoldering" etc.

Also a cross-cultural study reveals commonality in the conceptualization of emotion in language; a generalized skeletal model is as follows:
cause of emotion -> self has emotion -> self tries to control emotion -> behavioral response.

Study of different cultures show different emphasis points. For example in Japanese culture, the control part of the emotion is emphasized. Taking anger as an example, Japanese language metaphors reveal that anger first appears in the lower abdomen (hara), then it rises up to the heart, and finally to the head. If the anger reaches the head, it is considered that the person has lost control of the emotion. In Chinese culture, the emotion is felt in the lower abdomen (tan-tien) and it could then be distributed in various body organs leading to various somatic effects like stomach aches, headaches etc. In Zulu, by contrast, anger is located at the heart and the expression (or behavioral response) is conceived differently. In Zulu, emphasis is on "anger as a natural force" and when angry, a Zulu person may tend to react in a less directed manner, behaving aggressively towards others indiscriminately compared to the western approach of venting anger on the specific target that caused the anger. This does not mean that a westerner cannot behave indiscriminately or the Zulu cannot express anger directly, but the prototypical cultural models of the emotion as expressed through language has some differences in these cases. On Ifaluk, a micronesian atoll, the folk conception of anger emphasizes the prosocial, moral and ideological aspects of anger rather than the individualistic aspects emphasized in western cultures.

[quote author=Catherine Lutz]
The Ifaluk concept of song, justifiable anger, differs from their other concepts of anger and from anger as it may be defined in other societies. Song is not used for feelings about unpleasant or frustrating events; it is only used to describe reactions to morally-condemned actions. Song is a pro-social concept which identifies actions that may disturb the moral order or violate the values of society. The normal reaction to someone feeling song toward another is for the latter to then feel metagu, a fear of what that angered person will do. This anticipation and fear of justifiable anger from others prompts people to adhere to the island's peaceful social codes.

Koevecses shows that there are systematic links that take us from universal psychobiological experience of emotions through conceptualized metaphors to cultural models. These factors are what Panksepp called secondary and tertiary effects in the study of emotion. Looking at such examples make it clear though that there are some universal components in the experience of an emotion (which means "to move") across cultural boundaries.

Emotion as a force of Integration in development

What has been known from studies of complex systems is that as these non-linear systems evolve in time, their behavior is governed by a self-organization process motivated by learning in such a way that complexity is maximized in a direction of flexibility, adaptivity and dynamic stability. Applying this model to human beings, it can perhaps be said that emotions forms the most critical component in the evolution of human beings. Dabrowski's developmental Theory Of Positive Disintegration highlights the importance of emotional forces that cause the breakdown of the default state of primary (unilevel) integration so that a richer multilevel integration can become possible. Taking the concept of emotion as a force that moves us, it can thus be looked upon as an agent that affects our internal state of integration.

To use the emotional forces for development, the ability to self-regulate emotional response within manageable limits becomes important. If an experience is deemed too strong or overwhelming, either the state of disintegration is enhanced through uncontrolled response or a dissociative response leads to the force not being used at all. The Work concept of non-expression of negative emotions and using the force to generate friction leading to eventual fusion has been discussed elsewhere. Mouravieff talked about an inner expansion to contain the force generated from a negative emotion and use it for transmutation. Peter Levine also used the container analogy - " building a larger experiential vessel" - to enable creative channeling of the force associated with a strong negative emotion. Researchers and clinicians involved in affective therapy deal with some practical aspects of this problem.

Right Brain Influences and Affective Therapy

While peeling the layers of the onion, we first encounter habitual associative thoughts (System1) which are driven by secondary emotions which in turn were generated from early trauma/attachment failures interacting with and conditioning , through social and cultural forces, the biological substrate of primary emotion systems. As emphasized by Peter Levine in "In An Unspoken Voice" body sensations form a very important component in affective therapy.

Role of Non-verbal communication

As clinicians attempt to relate to unexpressed emotions empathically in the therapeutic context to facilitate healing, the question of non-verbal communication comes up. Daniel Goleman talked about the interpersonal synchrony and emotional contagion in "Social Intelligence". Such contagion operates through "low road" circuitry in the brain, beneath our awareness and at immense speeds and lets us immediately "feel with someone else". Attunement to is this non-verbal communication is considered essential for affective therapy clinicians. The communication model used here is the one that exists between an infant and mother. Basic research suggests that while the left hemisphere of the brain mediates most linguistic behaviors, the right hemisphere is important for broader aspects of communication - like facial expression, gesture and prosody (rhythm, stress and intonation of speech).

Robert Schore writes in "The Healing Power Of Emotions"
[quote author=Schore]
Clinical workers now describe transference as an "established pattern of relating and emotional responding that is cued by something in the present, but oftentimes calls up both an affective state and thoughts that may have more do with past experience than present ones.
Unconscious affects can best be understood not as repressed but as dissociated affects. Later-forming repression is associated with left hemispheric inhibition of affects generated by the right brain, whereas early-forming dissociation reflects a dysregulation of affects resulting from a dis-integration of the right brain itself.
Unconscious affective interactions (transference and countertransference) bring to life and consequently alter implicit memories and attachment styles. ....In previous neuropsychoanalytic work, I offered interdisciplinary evidence demonstrating that the right hemisphere is the locus of implicit memory. In discussing the right hemisphere as the seat of implicit memory, Mancia notes : "The discovery of the implicit memory has extended the concept of the unconscious and supports the hypothesis that this is where the emotional and affective - sometimes traumatic - presymbolic and preverbal experiences of the primary mother-infant relations are stored."

Implicit memories of dysregulating ultra-high arousal experiences are stored and expressed in sympathetic dominant rapid extreme increases of autonomic arousal associated with heart rate acceleration. Conversely, implicit memories of dysregulating ultra-low arousal experiences are stored and expressed in dorsal vagal parasympathetic dominant rapid extreme decreases of arousal associated with rapid heart rate deceleration. The principle of state dependent recall of implicit memories thus applies to each of these two domains. Achieving a particular bodily state is necessary to access certain affects, behaviors and cognitions.
As opposed to left-brain "anxious apprehension", expressed in cognitive anxiety, worry, verbal rumination, and muscle tension, right brain "anxious arousal" is associated with panic states and somatic symptoms, including shortness of breath, pounding heart, dizziness, sweating and feelings of choking. ....
In contrast, states of right-hemispheric parasympathetic dominant, energy conserving hypoarousal generate a massive density of intense low-arousal negative affect.
Thus early relational trauma, reactivated in transference-countertransference enactments, manifests dysregulated autonomic hyperarousal associated with sympathetic dominant affects (panic/terror, rage and pain), as well as dysregulated autonomic hypoarousal and parasympathetic dominant affects (shame, disgust and hopeless despair.

The therapist allows the patient to re-experience dysregulating affects in "affectively tolerable doses in the context of a safe environment, so that overwhelming traumatic feelings can be regulated and integrated into the patient's emotional life". Such work occurs at the edges of regulatory boundaries of affect tolerance. As a result of integration, the regulatory window (from Porges's polyvagal model) within which the patient operates in enlarged, thus increasing auto-regulation skills.

[quote author=Schore]
The usual concept of "window of tolerance" used by Ogden and Siegel describes the range of optimal arousal to sustain secondary process cognition (conscious, verbal, explicit) and striatal motor activities (voluntary action,; controlled overt behavior). These cognitive and behavioral functions are dependent upon a moderate rather than high or low arousal range, represented by a classic inverted U. This window of optimal verbal processing and overt behavioral expression reflects moderate arousal levels that sustain left-hemispheric functions. Current cognitive-behavioral and insight-driven clinical models operate in this arousal range and focus on these left-hemispheric functions.

In contrast, the affective therapies deal with right hemisphere mediated arousal and operate beyond the range of this tolerance window and in the therapeutic relationship, the interaction between the patient's emotional vulnerability and the therapist's emotional availability (transference and countertransference) leads to co-regulation of autonomic activity. Incidentally, the autobiographical narrative method which is applied in journalling and the "Redirect" concept is primarily mediated by the right hemisphere prefrontal cortex. Integration conceptually proceeds along two dimensions - horizontal and vertical. In vertical integration, energy and information flow occurs from somatic (body-based) sub-cortical processing to cortically mediated awareness. In horizontal integration, the differentiated processing of the right (experiential) and left (analytical) sides of the brain are linked together.
Affective Therapy - Snesorimotor Approach

Pat Ogden is a clinician who advocates a sensorimotor based approach to affective therapy. In working with patients with unintegrated and dysregulated emotions, her goal is to transform these emotions through experiencing and regulation. She writes

[quote author=Pat Ogden in The Healing Power Of Emotions]
A direct, exclusive, or even primary focus on emotional processing can initially present difficulties in working with those patients who typically experience an overwhelming flood of emotions, a lack of emotion, or the same emotion over and over. Direct attention to emotions in such instances may exacerbate dysregulation and/or reinforce maladaptive emotional patterns. Affect might be best regulated, rather, through an exclusive focus on bottom-up or sensorimotor processing interventions that challenge these tendencies, promote stabilization, and pave the way for future efficacious processing of emotions. As we shall see, such sensorimotor processing interventions go beyond simple body awareness interventions. ("What do you notice in your body? How do you experience that in your body?") by using body sensation and movement to address and change how information is processed on a bodily level ("Follow that sensation of tingling: what happens next in your body? Feel the tension in your shoulder .. sense the movement that wants to happen there; what happens as you slowly execute that movement?").

Ogden goes on to describe what we refer to as "running programs" in the Work context. She uses the term "procedural actions" which operate with little conscious input once the learning has happened - like riding a bicycle.

[quote author=Ogden]
Commencing in infancy procedural habits are formed gradually and incrementally as certain reactions to particular internal or external stimuli are engaged repeatedly over time. Once learned, these procedural internal actions (those that cannot be observed: cognitive, emotional and some physiological) and external actions (those that can be observed: physical and behavioral) are reliable and enduring.
Procedurally learned physical tendencies can be viewed as "a statement of psychobiological history and current psychobiological functioning" (Smith, 1985) that complements and corresponds with emotional tendencies. Formed to help us cope with early trauma and maximize resources of our attachment relationships, these actions are initially adaptive, but over time become habits that are often maladaptive for current situations. They manifest as primarily trauma-related or primarily attachment-related tendencies.

Trauma-related tendencies stem from overwhelming experiences that cannot be integrated and typically solicit sub-=cortical animal defensive mechanisms and dysregulated arousal.

Maladaptive attachment related tendencies stem from experiences with early childhood caregivers that caused emotional distress but did not overwhelm the child. Attachment trauma ensues when these experiences are overwhelming and perceived as dangerous, such that animal defensive responses and extreme or prolonged dysregulation ensue.

Although maladaptive attachment tendencies and trauma related tendencies are interconnected experiences that mutually influence each other, recognizing the primary indicators of each helps clinicians prioritize emotional or physical tendencies pertaining to either trauma or attachment.

Trauma related physical tendencies

Three general subsystems include
(1) relation-seeking actions or Porges's prosocial circuit mediated by myelinated vagal response which are related to the attachment system in mammals. Physically, they involve looking, facial expressions, listening by using middle ear muscles to extract voice from background noise, vocalization or prosody, social gestures and orientation like turning and head tilting.
As procedural state , this may manifest as an overly clinging and proximity seeking behavior.

(2) mobilizing defenses for overt action or Porges's fight or flight response mediated by the sympathetic nervous system. Physically this involves blood flow to large muscle groups preparing the body for strong overt actions like running away from danger and towards safety or fighting and is accompanied by increased heart rate.
Fight response as a procedural state is manifested in tension in arms, shoulders, jaws and back.
Flight response as a procedural state is manifested in inappropriate fleeing behaviors like running away or precipitously leaving social situations or more subtle flight actions as turning twisting, backing away.

(3) immobilizing defenses which are said to be of 3 subtypes: sympathetically mediated freeze which is alert immobility; parasympathetically mediated feigned death response or floppy immobility; and submissive behavior.

(3a) Alert immobility is characterized by hyper-attentiveness and complete stillness except for eye movement and respiration. When such a state becomes procedural, it appears in later years as chronic hypervigilance, muscular tension, agitated immobility, a tendency to startle and occasional panic.

(3b ) Floppy immobility is characterized by limp musculature, behavioral shutdown and slowed heart rate. When chronic, it is is manifested in slumped, collapsed posture and flaccidity in musculature.

(3c) Submissive behavior is an effort to avoid confrontation by defensive movements like avoiding eye-contact or lowering the eyes, crouching and bowing the back before the aggressor, and behaviors which include automatic robotic obedience to the demands of the aggressor. As procedural state, it manifests in responding to perceived threat with resignation, compliance and acquiescence.

For patients with dissociative disorders, these different defensive strategies manifest as discrete split-off parts of the self, each with its own physical tendencies. This is what is observed in some cases of Multiple Personality Disorder, where the physical characteristics of different alters can be very different - literally looking like different people.

Attachment Related Physical Tendencies

Here variations are more and sometimes subtle. If a child grows up in an environment where performance is valued over everything else, and there is some success in these endeavors, musculature is likely to be toned and tense, with a body mobilized to "try harder". If the environment influences are such that trying hard is discouraged or maladaptive, when achievements are undervalued, the physical posture may show sunken chest, limp arms and an attitude of giving up.

[quote author=Ogden]
The physical tendencies of secure and insecure childhood attachment histories are visible in our adult patients. Adults who are securely/autonomously attached demonstrate the capacity to interactively regulate, reflected in context-appropriate physical action tendencies that enable seeking suitable contact and proximity to others: reaching out, moving toward and away and setting adaptive boundaries. These tendencies reflect a capacity to ask for and use help when their own capacities are ineffective or overwhelmed. Additionally, these individuals are able to utilize autoregulatory strategies independent of relational contexts, which manifest in physical tendencies such as full breathing, grounding (being aware of the legs and feet, their weight and their connection to the ground) and centering (being aware of the core of their body and their bodily sense of self).

People with insecure-avoidant attachment histories routinely shun situations that stimulate attachment needs and prefer to autoregulate under stress by withdrawing from others. Often becoming uncomfortable, ackward or even dysregulated when executing simple actions such as reaching out with the arms and moving towards others, they may find pushing away motions more familiar and less disturbing.
These avoidant patterns contrast with those of patients with insecure-ambivalent histories, who typically have a tendency towards enmeshment, clinging behavior, and increased affect and bodily agitation at the threat of separation from an attachment figure. Usually quite comfortable with reaching out , such patients may experience intolerance for distance corresponding with a tendency to cling, grasp and a failure to literally let go.
When the attachment figure is also a threat to a child, a confusing and contradictory set of behaviors ensues that can be conceptualized as the result of simultaneous or alternating stimulation of attachment and defense systems.

These physical tendencies map closely to emotions - as has been shown by Nina Bull's research quoted in Peter Levine's "In An Unspoken Voice". In general, it can perhaps be said that while trauma related emotional tendencies are derived directly from animal defense mechanisms, the attachment related emotional tendencies are more sophisticated.

[quote author=Ogden]
The relational defenses are most likely built on animal defenses, but they are more sophisticated psychologically, being a result of a "higher-order consciousness" that includes the concept of a sense of self and conceptual grasp of past, present, and future. The affects associated with relational defenses limit the negative impact of painful emotions that evoked inadequate or inappropriate regulation and empathy from caregivers. In adult patients, these patterned emotions may be experienced as familiar and habitual, circular, endless and without resolution, and they go hand in hand with physical tendencies related to attachment.

Role of Mindfulness

[quote author=Ogden]
To discover and change procedural tendencies, the therapist is interested not only in the narrative or story, but in observing the emergence of procedural tendencies in the here and now of the therapy hour. Through the practice of mindfulness, patients learn to notice rather than enact or "talk about" these tendencies. ....
Because mindfulness is motivated by curiosity, it allows difficult thoughts and feelings and body sensations and movements simply to be there, to bring to them a kindly awareness, to adopt toward them a more "welcome" than a "need to solve" stance. Mindfulness also includes labeling and describing experience using language. Such nonjudgmental observation and description of internal experience engages the prefrontal cortex in learning about procedural tendencies rather than enacting them. Since emotions and procedural tendencies are the purview of the right hemisphere whereas language is the purview of the left hemisphere, mindfulness may serve to promote communication between the two hemispheres (horizontal integration).
"Directed Mindfulness" is an application of mindfulness that directs the patient's awareness toward particular elements of present moment experience considered important to therapeutic goals. When patients' mindfulness is not directed, they often find themselves at the mercy of the elements of internal experience that appears most vividly in the forefront of consciousness - typically the dysregulated aspects, such as pain or intrusive images, which cause further dysregulation, or their familiar attachment related patterns.
An example of non-directed mindfulness would be a general question to a dysregulated patient such as "What is your experience right now?". An example of directed mindfulness that guides a patient's attention toward meeting the goal of becoming more grounded would be "What do you notice in your body right now, particularly in your legs?" The patient will likely report that she cannot feel her legs, which paves the way for generating sensation and movement inher legs by bringing her attention to them, thus promoting the therapeutic goal of groundedness.

Core Affects and Regulation Window Expansion

[quote author=Ogden]
Expanding a patient's regulatory boundaries involves experiencing and expressing core emotions, integrating dissociated or masked emotions, increasing the capacity for positive affect, and challenging physical procedural tendencies with new actions.
Core affects are supported by the elaboration of corresponding physical actions:

Adaptive anger is supported by increased alignment of the spine, a degree of physical tension, and the capacity to push away or strike out;

Joy by an uplifting of the spine and expansive movement;

Empathy by a softening of the face and chest, and perhaps a gentle reaching out

Play by a tilt of the head and spontaneous, rapid changes in movement.

However, venting the associated patterned emotions often exacerbates procedural tendencies, repeats the past, and thus fails to expand the regulatory boundaries. Thus it is important that therapists assess the nature or source of a patient's emotional arousal: patterned, procedural tendencies that include dysregulated animal defensive responses, trauma-related hyperarousal or emotional tendencies; habitual emotions stemming from attachment history; or an authentic emotional response that expands the affect array, finishes unfinished business, reclaims emotions that have been dissociated, devalued or suppressed, or increases positive affect tolerance.

In many cases, it may make sense to focus exclusively on body sensations at critical times when an situation threatens to carry one away. Levine wrote in "In An Unspoken Voice" that

[quote author=Peter Levine]
The uncoupling of sensation from image and thought is what diffuses the highly charged emotions and allows them to transform fluidly into sensation based gradations of feelings.

Using sensation based vocabulary like tingling, traveling, shaking, calming down etc rather than emotional vocabulary like scared, ashamed, panicked, anxious etc to describe highly charged experiences could be a way forward in this respect.

For complex attachment related tendencies, the emotion/tendency that is first observed usually masks a deeper core emotion. The surface emotions are often used manipulatively to influence the actions of others by stimulating guilt, pity etc. Instead of venting and re-enacting these patterns, it is important to get in touch with the core affects that lie behind these secondary emotions.

Sometimes, while trying out relaxation or playful movements, patients would report tension and constriction in the bodies. Sometimes this is indicative of expectation of ridicule or even danger associated with these movements. In such cases, a mobilizing defensive response of pushing away thus setting a boundary and protection may be useful.

In conclusion Ogden states

[quote author=Ogden]
The successful accomplishment of previously feared or unfamiliar actions in the context of an attuned social engagement with the therapist, along with appropriate processing of previously feared or unfamiliar core emotions, serve to develop more adaptive relational capacities, strengthen both interactive and autoregulatory abilities, and expand the regulatory boundaries of the window of tolerance. A comprehensive integration of work with emotion and elaboration of physical action maximizes therapeutic possibility and, over time inspires patients to engage a wider range of life-enriching behaviors and affects.
Highly interesting. Once one is familiar with all the technical terms, what you have is an invaluable tool in studying your machine, which looks more and more mechanical the more you read these pages.

It now occurs to me that human existence and the animal existence is not so different at all; we all are prompted to preserve the living system, and Nature has programmed all these strategies into us. While for animals the struggle seems to be more about physical growth and survival, the human existence seems to contain one additional struggle: the growth and survival of a soul.

Neuroscientific study of complex emotions like jealousy is still in its early stages. Panksepp has done some work on it and relates this to his primary emotional systems.

[quote author=Panksepp]
Jealousy is rarely considered to be a primary emotion, since it requires certain types of social relationships, for instance triadic conflicts of some kind, in order to be fully expressed. This does not mean that jealousy is not based on a variety of primary, genetically ingrained, emotional processes. It surely is. ............. Jealousy ultimately becomes that affectively complex emotion whose adaptive value is to counteract severance of existing social bonds.

Jealousy, just like the many other secondary (or learning based) /tertiary (or thought based) emotions that rely on learning and higher cognitive activities, becomes manifest through existential experiences of living in social worlds. By contrast, the basic emotions are fundamentally "gifts of nature" handed down from ancestral selection pressures, even though subsequent living experiences surely fine-tune even those evolutionarily ingrained networks through epigenetic influences. Because of its secondary nature, jealousy is bound to take on a larger variety of affective dynamics than is generated by any single one of the various emotional primes that can be aroused during jealousy, such as RAGE, FEAR, separation distress/PANIC, and desire/SEEKING. Also, certain affective preconditions for jealousy may arise from LUST and CARE systems of the brain. Although all the primary emotional processes can participate in jealousy, the specific symphony of jealous feelings experienced by a person is dependent not only on an individual's life history but also the specifics of the relationship that is challenged. There is neither a single genetically pre-ordained evolutionary network nor a single emotional feeling that can define jealousy.
[Jealousy] is an emotion that is dependent on certain types of object and subject relations in the world, which is initially constituted of, and eventually recruits, patterned arousals in a variety of more basic brain emotional processes to yield a derivative emotion. How might this occur thorugh social learning? Perhaps a few experiences with separation- distress/PANIC are enough? Since mothers have to make a living (eg hunting and foraging) in the world, they often leave their infants alone, and there are many other opportunities for the psychic pain of separation distress to have been aroused. Repeated experiences of this sort may developmentally prepare neural ground for adult jealousies. Thus, jealousy can become an anticipatory mood in various social situations where the comfort of the social bond is compromised and strained by various social events. Indeed, there may be various types of jealousy depending on the patterns of basic emotions aroused.

Human interpretation of animal behavior indicates that animals show the emotion of jealousy. In a survey designed to study the perceived existence of secondary emotions like empathy, shame, pride, guilt, jealousy, embarrassment etc in animals, which included owners of birds, cats, dogs, horses, guinea pigs, hamsters, rabbits and rats - with respect to jealousy, the highest percentage of reports was for dogs (81% of respondents) followed by horses (79%), cats (66%), birds (67%), rats (47%), rabbits (37%), guinea pigs (27%) and hamsters (17%). So major categories of large companion animals and birds as well as almost half of "lowly" rats are believed to display expressions of jealousy. Panksepp states that the state of jealousy is a "coherent" enough emotional state from a neuroscientific perspective and though the science is in its infancy in studying this emotion, there is potential for future work in this area with animal models.

Working with Panksepp's model agrees well with the principles of 4th Way imo. At the first step, we identify through self-observation and feedback from others where our thoughts and behavior may display the component of jealousy. Looking closely at the type of relationship involved in the specific context which aroused this emotion, we can deconstruct the emotion into its component emotional primes - like CARE, LUST, PANIC, RAGE, FEAR etc. We can then sense the physical component of the emotional primes in the body - hopefully at the time of arising so that we can regulate ourselves better in real time. Cognitively, we can then start re-writing the scripts which lead to inaccurate perception of reality in some cases. In cases where the jealousy seems like a legitimate response to the situation, specially in close relationships, we can clearly articulate our feelings to significant others and work towards resolution - osit.
"In cases where the jealousy seems like a legitimate response to the situation, specially in close relationships, we can clearly articulate our feelings to significant others and work towards resolution - osit."

Should we articulate our jealouse feelings to our significant others or since its our jealousy and our feelings and thoughts deal with them and use "The Work" (Conscious Suffering) to mitigate or transform the negative emotions use external consideration instead of internal? If there is no real threat to the relationship and all you have is your negative feelings would it be better to tell them or keep quiet understand they are just your feelings and work on yourself...With the goal of setting up an STO relationship and accepting someone for who they are by not telling them to change what they do or say?
Menna said:
"In cases where the jealousy seems like a legitimate response to the situation, specially in close relationships, we can clearly articulate our feelings to significant others and work towards resolution - osit."

Should we articulate our jealouse feelings to our significant others or since its our jealousy and our feelings and thoughts deal with them and use "The Work" (Conscious Suffering) to mitigate or transform the negative emotions use external consideration instead of internal? If there is no real threat to the relationship and all you have is your negative feelings would it be better to tell them or keep quiet understand they are just your feelings and work on yourself...With the goal of setting up an STO relationship and accepting someone for who they are by not telling them to change what they do or say?

Hi Menna,
I do not think that these questions have a general one size fits all answer. The specific circumstances are important. External consideration is doing what makes life easier for others and oneself. If the cause of jealousy is the perceived threat to an important social relationship - like the relationship with one's partner for example - then being honest and upfront about one's feelings, acknowledging one's vulnerabilities and working it out with the partner seems reasonable. Trying to suck it up and put up a false image of being strong and perfect is likely to be counterproductive in the long run, especially if the goal is to build a STO relationship - osit.

If on the other hand, one is jealous of a coworker who is the boss's new favorite, then a careful cognitive appraisal of the situation is called for. Working this out without involving the boss or the favored colleague would make life easier for others and the self.
Menna said:
"In cases where the jealousy seems like a legitimate response to the situation, specially in close relationships, we can clearly articulate our feelings to significant others and work towards resolution - osit."

Should we articulate our jealouse feelings to our significant others or since its our jealousy and our feelings and thoughts deal with them and use "The Work" (Conscious Suffering) to mitigate or transform the negative emotions use external consideration instead of internal? If there is no real threat to the relationship and all you have is your negative feelings would it be better to tell them or keep quiet understand they are just your feelings and work on yourself...With the goal of setting up an STO relationship and accepting someone for who they are by not telling them to change what they do or say?

If you really strip it down to bare bones, jealousy is thinking ONLY about the self. It really is a pure STS emotion. So, if you think about it from that perspective, why would you indulge it at all or inflict it on others by "discussing it" with them at all? Perhaps a better route to take is to recognize when it's happening and exercise some control over your horses and stop it in its tracks. If you can only do it for a short time, that's fine - keep practicing and build some will about it. Realize that every tinge of jealousy is merely thinking only of the self. Try thinking about other people and what they need/want/experience/feel - that usually pops a person out of the cycle of self-indulgence.

To clarify, if one is experiencing pain due to being emotionally abused in a relationship, that is not the same thing as jealousy and that requires a different action. But, if you're talking about jealousy in an of itself, then it really is all about the self.
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