The Complexity of our lifelong “self-states” (part two)



The limbic imprints of the infant brain come from facial expressions, tone of voice and touch etc. that can start in-utero and come from a myriad of social interchanges with whoever has contact with the child.  Touch, voice, tone, and facial expressions “… become emotional “Attractors” which come to fore and “play out our unconscious knowledge in every unthinking move we make in the dance of loving”.[iv]

These imbedded emotional inscriptions do not occur without social interchange. The Attractors remain camouflaged in our limbic brain and emerge to create our attractions for some circumstances (danger, serenity), environments (sounds, smells, tastes), people (male, female, tall, thin), and relationships and our rejection of others.

Attractors can dictate a sympathetic reverberation or a discordant note that, though unaware of, we are compelled to follow.  They govern our relationships and how we relate and to whom we relate and explain the most improbable coupling of two beings that appear to be a total mismatch. Dr. Dan Siegel describes this state as the “mutually influencing interactions between two or more relatively independent and differentiated entities”.[iv]

This type of emotional connection enables people to “feel felt” when they tune into each other. “When interpersonal communication is “fully engaged”— when the joining of minds is in full force—there is an overwhelming sense of immediacy, clarity, and authenticity”.[iv]

These interactions also have the potential of regulating several components of one’s physiological systems such as breathing, blood pressure, heart rate, and muscle tension. “Who we are and who we become depends, in part, on whom we love”.[iv]

At this point we add that although it may appear the limbic brain acts substantially on its own, recent experimental evidence suggests that most of the brain and not just the limbic is actively engaged in emotionally responding to internal and external stimuli.

It appears, after the initial emotional “wake up call”- usually a core or basic emotion such as fear, anger, surprise, sadness or joy- it undergoes assessment and categorical classifying, cognitive evaluation and an increase or decrease of energy flow and alertness in order to respond appropriately to the stimuli.

In other words the core emotion is modulated and becomes both, the initiator and the responsive action-sometimes the opposite of each other.  An initial emotion of surprise and fear can become a response of frantic survival or an occasion of joy depending on the cognitive appraisal and resolution of the stimuli. So even though the three brain parts can act independently there is an abundance of relational interaction and dependence between them.[iv]

And we wonder why communication/relationships are challenging. Every person is a composite of many parts. Every encounter with another person unwittingly involves our many selves as well as their many selves. Oh, the many faces we live.



[iv] Thomas Lewis, M.D., Fari Amini, M. D. Richard Lannon, M.D. The General Theory of Love. (2001) Vintage Books, A Division of Random House, Inc. New York  (p. 36)

[iv] Lewis (p. 33)




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The Complexity of our lifelong “self-states”
The Emotional Life and Cognitive Dissonance