Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Affect in Bipolar Affective Disorder?

Bipolar Affective Disorder is a Disorder of Affect-Emotion?

What exactly does Neuroscience mean by Affective States?

Are Symptoms of Schizophrenia, PTSD & BPD so Different?

Is Affect the Root of all Emotional-Affective Disorders?

Are Nine Innate Affects where Instinct meets Emotion?

Put sufferers of Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, Borderline Personality Disorder & PTSD in a room together to talk about symptom’s or labels, as some prefer to call that love of categorization within the world of academia. Put all these fellow sufferers of mental - emotional anguish together and you tend to get what sounds a lot like a commonality of phenomena.

‘That’s because such people are hypochondriacs,’ you might be thinking?

Yet is there a common link between all mental/emotional disorder and is it to be found in the evolution of our autonomic (animal) nervous system? Can we say that affective disorder is a disorder of innate instincts/affects, and not a disease as is most popularly understood of such experience?

Are there only nine innate affects, which are the roots of all emotions, and is affective disorder really a disorder of poorly understood and even denied human instinct? Does the rationalizing mind deny its own evolutionary heritage and do our thoughts determine our primary motivation?

Can human motivation still be adequately described by our mammalian evolution with its basic instinct for approach or avoidance? Does the recent shift towards mindfulness of body sensation in many forms of therapy, suggest a need to rediscover a lost sense of self, a return to our innate nature? 

Perhaps the autonomic (animal) nervous system is the common link in the symptoms of each of the above disorders, when viewed through the knowledge of evolution now being exposed by Stephen Porges and others. Peter Levine has a unique view of PTSD which is based on a simple question, "why do mammals in the wild not suffer from trauma affect," and why do humans who experience deeply negative states develop ongoing disorder? Could it be that the conscious mind resists its instinctual foundations and disrupts a natural process of healing by resisting the sensations of the body, the primary instincts/affects as mediated by the autonomic (animal) nervous system.

"The striving and territorial protectivness of the reptile, the nurturing and family orientation of the early mammal, 
the symbolic and linguistic capacities of the neo-cortex may multiply our damnation or grace our salvation." 
_Jean Houston, The Possible Human.

It is well documented that animals do however exhibit symptoms of distress when held in captivity, when trapped in helpless states where they cannot execute voluntary actions. It could be argued that the price humans pay for our social advancement, is the trapping of instinct/affect in mores of social expectation. As Silvan Tomkins explains in "Exploring Affect: The Selected Writings of Silvan S Tomkins (Studies in Emotion and Social Interaction)" only in very young children is the expression of primary affect tolerated.

The price of civilization has been the suppressing of innate mammalian instincts/affects in the human primate, because affect is contagious as we all know from our experience of other peoples belly laughs or the flight of panic with smoke in a crowded building. In our learning of how to 'be' in life we mimic the behavior of others through mirror neurons and the motor cortex, which many in neuroscience now see as psychotherapy's 'preconscious

The Brains Motor Cortex & Unconscious Premovement: The brains activity began about 500 milliseconds before the person was aware of deciding to act. The conscious decision came far too late to be the cause of the action. It was as though consciousness was a mere afterthought - a way of 'explaining to ourselves' an action not evoked by consciousness. 
Peter Levine "In an Unspoken Voice"

In Summary: Are disorders like bipolar caused by misunderstood and intellectually denied innate affects, with their primacy in approach/avoidance motivation? Are states like dissociation stimulated by hyperactivity in the nervous system - evolved survival energies held trapped within by a mind fearful of the powerful sensations of the body?

Can we learn to re-balance a system conditioned by negative experience, and maintained by social denial and suppression with techniques of somatic psychotherapies, such as

My own recovery from bipolar symptoms has been achieved by the gaining of insight into my unconscious nature, such as my triune nervous system and its unconscious activity. Reading Polyvagal Theory and coming to understand the new concept of neuroception has allowed me to see the folly of my previous intellectualizations, often a product of my instinct for avoidance - of my embodied sensations.

I now use the techniques described by Peter Levine in his book In an Unspoken Voice to manage the energies of innate affect/emotion better than I have ever done, with moods remaining within a normal range through an increased ability to identify sensations, like excitement without being swept away. I strongly encourage others to educate themselves about their own brain/body and find their own way to a healthier experience of innate affect/emotion and energies that power the imagination.