Experiential Orbits

One conceptualization of negative emotions, with many implications, is their signaling of barriers within our psyche. Rather than encourage expansion they serve as agents of constriction to unconscious maps.

In order to anchor into the human experience, as demonstrated by neuroscientists, children lay groundwork for what quickly becomes their unconscious maneuverings in later life. Formative experiences, due to their potentially traumatic awakening to answers of identity, environment or relational safety, become the core of the brain's developmental structures. With the brain's main governance being survival, and identity, relationships and environment being the strongest determinants, answers to these questions become more than just introspections. They become part of the formulation of an alarm system.

What this means is we are answering profound questions in early life and then held captive to the answers. 

The efficacy of this safety system is in its use of "implicit-only" memory. With survival requiring swiftness of response, conscious recall of past memories would only slow us down. Action is therefore inspired by the flooding of distressing reactions from formative memories, but we think we are responding to the present moment.

"When a key element of the present situation is associated with a past experience that was fearful or hurtful, it often makes a loose connection and finds a match. The amygdala then commands our body/mind to react with thoughts, emotions and reactions that were learned in connection with past events. At that point, it is as though a hypothetical pipeline opens up and powerful messages and energies from the past flood into the present moment, often dramatically affecting the nature and intensity of the individual’s reaction to the present situation. The alarm system persuades us that all the dangerous conditions that existed in the past situation are again present, when they are not...

...There is another aspect of the brain/body’s alarm system that makes it even more challenging. There are two basic classes of memories. With explicit memories, we know we are remembering something; we are conscious of retrieving a memory of a past experience or event. With implicit memories, the information and powerful emotional components of a previous experience are activated, impacting our present-moment reaction, but we are not aware we are having a memory! We think our entire reaction is responding to the present situation when, in fact, a significant part of our reaction often is flooding us from the memory of the earlier experience, a memory we are not aware we are having." (Terry Fralich, LCPC)

"Because brain structure is being relationally created at the beginning of life, these very early impacts become powerful influences on the way we perceive, behave and relate, especially because they are held in implicit-only memory." (Bonnie Badenoch, PhD)

Yet another brain mechanism diametrically opposing richness of experience, these powerful emotional hijackings essentially hold us hostage. They are securely set up to deter rationality in moments of "implicit-memory" recall because that would undermine the alarm system. And, of course, when activated, any engagement in the experience further strengthens those neural pathways in the brain.  

Have I mentioned this is the general framework for our entire emotional landscape? Have I also mentioned this is why so many of us can generally say we are safe in our lives but immersed in irrational fears? 

Begin, now, to observe your personal alarm system. Let me know when, if ever, it actually serves to protect you from an unsafe experience. 

But it all feels so real, doesn't it? 

Doesn't it have to?

- Samsara

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