The instinctual emotional responses that generate the raw affective feelings that Mother Nature built into our brains are primary-process experiences that exist in the basement of the brain. These areas are ancient structures that constitute the “affective” mind. These foundations are primitive filters which provide our impressions of what our lives are all about—this is where ancient survival instincts are found.
These qualities, which we listed in a previous blog, give us the ability to receive and process our internal state. These signals are transported to higher brain levels to mix with the information that is coming through our senses from the outside world. It is from these signals that we know how we are feeling at any point in time and how those feelings are influenced by the things around us. It is in this way we are changed by and change with experience.
These primary process human emotions are practically impossible to study directly. Most of the research proceeds by inference through the analysis of findings at higher levels. But there is a glimmer of substance that provides sufficient clarity into that fundamental aspect of our human emotional nature—our facial expressions.
Feelings such as being incredibly scared, feeling deep sadness or joy are feelings that create an energetic form of consciousness—a level of affective consciousness. Primal feelings are not intrinsically intelligent, but they have proven to be remarkably useful for their survival value.
Ideas and material for this blog was taken from: Panksepp and Bivens (2012), Archeology of the Mind: Neurological Origins of Behavior. W. W. Norton and Co., New York.