My model of emotions is composed of five building blocks. Based on this I will present step-by-step the transition from physiological reflex reactions to psychological reactions. In addition, it is important to consider the four levels at which emotions can take place.
five Modules of feelings
The behavior of animals is mostly based on instincts, while decisions by men have been replaced to a large extent by rational, intellectual processes. Complementing the instinctive and logical behavioral repertoire, we have an extended emotional system that not only acts as a bridge linking instinct and logic, but has also inherited certain peculiarities from both.
With the instincts the affective system shares reflexive processes. In the interest of better controlling the emotions, a delay mechanism of increased corticalization has been built in to allow for prior evaluation of emotional state, what we paraphrase as social authority and emotional intelligence.
Under this superstructure of decision-making pathways, the psychic energy balance runs as a basic pattern and at the same time is functioning as engine and motivator. Like any living organism, man is embedded in rhythms of changing activity, that is, phases of lower energy level alternate with phases of increased level.
1. Being Love – a resting state in Balance
I assume a basal state of rest, a homeostatic equilibrium. I refer to this basal state of psychophysical well-being as being love.
There is a basic homeostatic state of psychophysical well-being that I call being love.
✧ No condemnation (non-judgmental)
✧ “Naive amazement“
✧ Timelessness (there is only the being in the here and now, without any past or future)
✧ Without space and permeability (Emptiness)
✧ Experience of Freedom and Independence
✧ Eutonic body state
✧ Aperspectival world of experience
✧ Oceanic feeling
✧ Averbal, figurative process
✧ Harmoniously pulsating vibrations (feelings of happiness as an expression of surrender to being love)
2. Excitation energy
Biologically excitation energy corresponds to the life force, after sexual maturity especially to the reproductive energy. Unconsciously, excitation energy manifests itself in the form of harmonic waves of the pulse or sudden peaks of emotions and their possible combinations.
The core element of feelings is energy. I can give expression to this energy of feeling by living them, as long as I identify with upcoming signals: feeling exultant, saddened to death, feeling happy and melancholic …
The evaluation of this energy – its positive or negative labelling – loses its meaning in the moment of meditative distancing. When “I am staying in” I do not direct my energy outwardly in a juvenile drive, but I am exploring my inner world.
In contrast to common theories of emotions, I fundamentally assume the possibility that emotions are not only directed in a straight way toward an opposite or toward the achievement of a personal goal, and that emotions are not only means for the development of increasingly efficient survival strategies, but that emotions can also be used as pure energy phenomenon, they can “rise up” within us. As I indeed postulate for the occurance of primary excited love, the basic core emotion arises in a way that may be completely independent of outside circumstances.
In the context of meditation there are three possible perceptions that go deeper and deeper, i.e., further and further into the unconscious. These perceptions allow us to gain distance from feelings and to experience them as pure energy phenomena. This distance implies that I am no longer completely taken over by them and that I no longer necessarily depend on them.
3 steps into the unconscious
I observe how the majority of my feelings are externally determined
Every human being in the course of his socialization has a tendency to adopt certain emotional patterns of behavior from others, predominantly from his immediate early caregivers. DANIEL STERN and VIRGINIA DEMOS have shown how these early “emotional transmissions” proceed in the context of the infant’s tuning and affective authority.
In his family constellations BERT HELLINGER uncovers an extraordinarily effective form where feelings in the system are transferred from ancestors.
I get to my sources of feelings which are lying in the unconscious determined by repression
Uncovering the feelings, i.e., getting to my own repressed feeling source, requires additional courage (or suffering) because these unconscious sources of feelings are always linked to psychic pain experiences and thus lead to anxiety and/or rage. If these experiences would not be so existentially unpleasant, we would have had no reason to repress them either.
I detach myself from identifying with my emotional expressions and thereby observe them as energy phenomena
This “objectification” refers to the externally determined trigger of feelings, which can be anchored in my psyche as an introject. It can also take reference to the immediate, often reflexively triggered expression of behavior.
Now the preconditions are given for experiencing the third and last stage:
Only if I have dealt with repressed and inherited feelings, I am ready to allow feelings as a pure energy phenomenon, undistorted, without preconceived opinions. I experience the “energetic charge” physically, without having to name, categorize or evaluate it.
The energy of excited love
In this step-by-step process of demystifying feelings, we gradually get closer to the actual thing, the “raw material”: the energy of excited love.
Now, if for whatever reason the psychophysical energy is increasing, we feel a sense of excitement, which I call excited love. This is the transfer of physical life energy into a perceived form that we can feel directly. At the same time by expressing we visibly communicate our state of excitement to fellow human beings and all living beings related to us.
Sensory awareness and meditation
are ways to uncover lost basic feelings
In order to become reacquainted with this life force, through which we realize ourselves but whose access has been largely buried by socialization, new methods have been developed or old methods rediscovered in recent decades: e.g. sensory awareness (Spürbewusstheit) according to CHARLES BROOKS, Spürbewusstsein according to PETER SCHELLENBAUM and especially a form of perception that has been cultivated uninterruptedly in the East for thousands of years but also practiced in the West: meditation.
These techniques open up ways to get back in touch with basic feelings lost in the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
The “positive” basic feeling is primary excited love. It shows up whenever the “overflowing” energies accumulated in the basic state of being love are lustfully expressed by the body. Biologically it corresponds to the life force, after sexual maturity mainly to the reproductive energy. Unconsciously excitation energy manifests itself in the form of harmonious waves of the pulse or sudden peaks of emotion and their possible combinations.
In an article on the troubled way of emotional development, I will detail this basic reaction to a disturbance of the homeostatic resting state or energetic expression.
4. The Flight-or-Fight System
I describe this “primitive” emotion modification based on response mechanisms — also common in the animal system — in a later article on the physiological basis of dysfunctional emotion.
The associated “higher” emotional modifications and psychological defense mechanisms are social in nature. More on this in a later, scientific article.
in relation to levels of emotion
|4 Emotion Levels ⇥ |
5 Modules ↧
|Primary Psychic Level||Secondary Psychic Level|
|1. Basic Form of Love||Being||Unconscious Being Love||Purposeful Love||Conscious Being Love|
|2. Degree of Energy/Excitement||Energy|
|Primary Excited Love||Secondary Excited Love|
|3. Forms of Pain||Tissue Damage|
–> Body Pain
–> Psychic Primary Pain
|Psychic Insult (Kränkung)|
|Body Pain; Psychic Pain is recognized|
|4. Fight/Flight Reflex||Injury/Threat|
|Psychic Primary Rage|
Psychic Primary Fear
|Psychic Secondary Rage|
Psychic Secondary Fears
|Conscious Transstepping (Überstieg) as an Option|
|5. Progressive Socialization||No Sozialization ⥴||Minimal Socialization ⥴||Socialization ⥴||Optional|
four levels IN the model of feelings
In addition to the five modules of emotional development I distinguish four levels to which feelings can be basically assigned:
1. preconscious body level
Experiential world of all living beings.
2. level of the primary self
Postulated unconscious experiential world of the infant and most probably already of the fetus.
3. level of the second self
The main reality of the socialized human being.
4. level of zenreality
The secondary reality of the spiritual man,
it corresponds to the conscious experience of the primary self.
1. preconscious body level
The feelings of this level are directly related to the body, although they are not yet consciously perceived. They are reflexive, archaic modes of reaction, which can also be proved in animals. In particular it is about the expressions of pain, anger and fear, but also about devoted mating and breeding behavior. By the food intake – as a natural form of the “incorporation of energy” – as well as by hormonal and manifold physiological stimuli the basic physical feelings develop out of the homeostatic basic state, which I call excited love.
In addition to this positive basic body feeling there are basic negative physical feelings such as body pain, which reflexively is responded to in the locomotor system by attack or flight. Located in the digestive system, hunger and nausea react on a preconscious level (with nausea as a particularly drastic bodily reflex).
2. level of the primary self
This is the presocialized, psychophysical level with body-emotional feelings; being love and the primary psychic excited love are part of it. It must be assumed that not only the infant but already the fetus should be assigned to this level.
As at the first level, the relation to the body is still very close: the feelings are closely related to immediate experience at the sensory level (tactile-kinesthetic, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, and after birth increasingly visual). They are experienced physically and usually expressed physically. If this is possible, then the Gestalt (FRITZ PERLS) rounds up, that is to say, energetically the organism thereafter is again in balance, in the homeostasis of being love.
In addition, a psychic dimension now is manifesting itself. In addition to laughter, the primary psychic excited love expresses itself in various ways in physically expressed feelings of pleasure and joy, the juicy sensation of being close to somebody and as a general love for movement.
We experience this level as positive, as well as its close feeling appetite, associated with the need for “ingestion.” Negatively, we experience the five psychic primary emotions hunger, disgust, pain, anger, and fear, the latter two representing basic responses to psychic primary pain. All show clear impacts on the physical level.
3. level of the secondary self
Here we find the socialized human being with ego-consciousness dominated by the rational. I call his feelings secondary feelings.
Characteristic of this level is that the here-and-now feeling experience is abandoned in favor of imagination, preconceived notions, fantasies, dreams, and desires; the experience is moved to the area of the neocortex, we imagine something. The secondary feelings are only remotely connected to sensorimotor processes and are interwoven many times, so that trying to disentangle or segregate them may be extremely difficult.
In addition there is an abstraction of this (nowadays digital) imaginative world. Feelings no longer arise spontaneously due to a harmonious accumulation of energy or as a result of external disturbances. We increasingly create feelings ourselves by wishful thinking and fears or also by drugs and medications. The main part of the energy is caused by our mental attitude, by the identification with our ego, they are only to a small part triggered from outside or inside.
Later I will describe special forms such as the psychic secondary pain, the scarification of feelings (Kränkung) corresponding to an injury of the ego and the resulting secondary anguish and the secondary rage.
The same applies to other socially desirable and more acceptable or also more or less obviously self-destructive “higher” forms of behavior that differentiate with increasing socialization like shame, pride or arrogance. Many of these feelings have negative effects, but in everyday context they might be even valued. From a psychological/psychiatric perspective they are often considered as preferred adult behavior.
Artistic expression can be considered as a transitional phenomenon. The possibility of being able to portray “real” feelings by acting and trigger them within the spectator indicates that emotional expression is enormously flexible.
However the more the protagonist becomes involved in his play, the musician is absorbed in his music and the dancer has disappeared into the dance, becoming one with the whole, the more blurred the line between apparent and real becomes. Probably great artists are characterized precisely by the fact that they are no longer subject to the demands of the ego but are once again – now however consciously in the sense of Zen reality – acting out of their primary selves.
4. spiritual level
The preliminary level of deep psychology
C. G. JUNG has studied eastern thought in depth. Thereby he came across the ancient Indian philosophical Tantra Yoga. In its Kundalini system he came to realize the step-by-step development of the soul, as it can be proved not only in Jungian psychoanalysis, but also in the initiation into manifold mysteries. In simple terms JUNG interpreted the system of Kundalini Yoga as follows:
Commonly, we humans are at the level of the lowest 1st chakra, Muladhara, which is located in the perineal area. (This corresponds to the third level, the level of the secondary self in my model of feelings.)
If we walk on the path of individuation, we arrive at the 2nd chakra, Svadhishthana, which JUNG interprets as the “area of water”, the realm of the unconscious. An analogous process occurs in a ritual initiation such as Christian baptism. This chakra corresponds to the unconscious life, everything happens without reflective I-consciousness. (It corresponds to the second level of my feeling model, the unconscious primary self. )
Sooner or later, in the continuation of the process (of the deep psychological individuation path respectively the Kundalini path of the tantric yogi) we will encounter our shadow in the 3rd chakra, Manipura.
This is the center of violent emotions experienced as particularly psychologically painful, painful probably also because for the first time we look at them directly, suspending the strategies of repression. At the same time, it is the place of our unsatiated passions, the “hell within ourselves.” Blind rage, insatiable greed and mindless fears never let us rest.
For JUNG it is the “first psychic localization“. I call this stage the deep psychological preliminary stage. Here, for the first time, feelings are perceived in their full scope and experienced in a particularly intense and conflictual way. This stage provides an increasingly clear insight into the historical and familial connections of the self and possibly also in its genetic foundations.
The level of being love is located in the chest
For me, the 4th chakra, the Anahata, located at the level of the heart, also belongs to the deep psychological preliminary stage. Symbolically, this is the place where being love is located. For JUNG, conscious individuation begins here, disidentification from emotions, recognition of adopted values and ideas. Here the self-centered ego of the lower three stages transforms into a “higher self”, in my terminology into the – more or less conscious – primary self.
While in the area of the third chakra feelings are still experienced object-staged, JUNG describes the last 5th chakra, Vishuda in the larynx area, which he still discusses in detail, as subject-staged. This means that I am able to recognize secondary feelings as projections and take responsibility for their “causation” and do not attribute them to the “others.”
For JUNG the higher chakras (the sixth in the area of the “third eye” as well as the seventh, the crown chakra) can still be discussed theoretically for the cultivated western human being, but they are personally hardly comprehensible anymore. Here the “higher self” is replaced by the “not-me” and especially with the “all-unity” of the crown chakra Sahasrara – an area which to JUNG is “purely philosophical”.
In my model these last two chakras I assign to the level of Zen reality.
The level of Zen reality
The realm of the two highest chakras, which is no longer comprehensible from the point of view of main reality, is the realm of transcendence, where the human being identifies neither with the body nor with the feelings nor with the mind, where the “Not-I finally merges into the All-One.”
In my opinion, the 6th chakra is the conscious experience of the level of the primary self.
In the extended transactional analytic model I try to represent this state by means of a scheme which also shows that in the transcendent form of communication not only the boundaries of the ego but also those of the primary self have dissolved. This state corresponds to the 7th chakra.
The level of Zen reality is outside the usual onto- as well as phylogenetic patterns of development. This world of experience is neither scientifically recognized nor precisely definable. Many people deal with it at most marginally; it is all too unfamiliar. Especially to the homo economicus anything associated with states of the soul seems to be suspect.
Despite this, this spiritual level corresponds to an area that occupies a significant position precisely in the context of the emotions.
At this level, the socialization programs that led to the formation of the secondary self are revealed by meditation experiences. However, thanks to the possibility of transstepping, they are always available to the person experienced in meditation.
Negative feelings at this level correspond to the basic feelings of the body level (hunger, nausea, and mental pain and fear). Since the spiritual person at this level no longer identifies with his body and its feelings, he consciously perceives these basic feelings, consciously “just lets them happen”, avoids them or actively addresses a threat without the need for the perceived feelings to reactively trigger fear, anger and the whole range of feelings of repression. In the holistic state of the primary self, there is no need for secondary feelings related to loss of face.
Doubtless, it is possible only for exceptional people to be mainly on this level. For the majority of the spiritually interested, the level of Zen reality corresponds to a reality with which they are more or less familiar and whose insights they more or less are able to incorporate into the main reality (of the socialized human being).
The FOUR levels of the emotion model
- The body level (main reality)
- The psychic level of the primary self
- The psychic level of the secondary self (main reality)
- The spiritual-religious level
|4 Emotion Levels ⇥ |
|1. Body Level||2. Psychic Level Primary Self||3. Psychic Level Secondary self||4. Spiritual Level|
|Definition of Self||Being||Primary Self||Secondary Self|
|Perceived Reality||Main Reality||Side Reality|
|Degree of Consciousness||Preconscious||Unconscious||“Conscious”||Conscious|
|Perceived Feelings||Body Perception||Psychic Primary Feelings||Psychic Secondary Feelings||Energy Perception|