Born Aliens - Part IWritten by Sam Vaknin
Neonates have no psychology. If operated upon, for instance, they are not supposed to show signs of trauma later on in life. Birth, according to this school of thought is of no psychological consequence to newborn baby. It is immeasurably more important to his "primary caregiver" (mother) and to her supporters (read: father and other members of family). It is through them that baby is, supposedly, effected. This effect is evident in his (I will use male form only for convenience's sake) ability to bond. The late Karl Sagan professed to possess diametrically opposed view when he compared process of death to that of being born. He was commenting upon numerous testimonies of people brought back to life following their confirmed, clinical death. Most of them shared an experience of traversing a dark tunnel. A combination of soft light and soothing voices and figures of their deceased nearest and dearest awaited them at end of this tunnel. All those who experienced it described light as manifestation of an omnipotent, benevolent being. The tunnel - suggested Sagan - is a rendition of mother's tract. The process of birth involves gradual exposure to light and to figures of humans. Clinical death experiences only recreate birth experiences.
The womb is a self-contained though open (not self-sufficient) ecosystem. The Baby's Planet is spatially confined, almost devoid of light and homeostatic. The fetus breathes liquid oxygen, rather than gaseous variant. He is subjected to an unending barrage of noises, most of them rhythmical. Otherwise, there are very few stimuli to elicit any of his fixed action responses. There, dependent and protected, his world lacks most evident features of ours. There are no dimensions where there is no light. There is no "inside" and "outside", "self" and "others", "extension" and "main body", "here" and "there". Our Planet is exactly converse. There could be no greater disparity. In this sense - and it is not a restricted sense at all - baby is an alien. He has to train himself and to learn to become human. Kittens, whose eyes were tied immediately after birth - could not "see" straight lines and kept tumbling over tightly strung cords. Even sense data involve some modicum and modes of conceptualization (see: "Appendix 5 - The Manifold of Sense").
Even lower animals (worms) avoid unpleasant corners in mazes in wake of nasty experiences. To suggest that a human neonate, equipped with hundreds of neural cubic feet does not recall migrating from one planet to another, from one extreme to its total opposition - stretches credulity. Babies may be asleep 16-20 hours a day because they are shocked and depressed. These abnormal spans of sleep are more typical of major depressive episodes than of vigorous, vivacious, vibrant growth. Taking into consideration mind-boggling amounts of information that baby has to absorb just in order to stay alive - sleeping through most of it seems like an inordinately inane strategy. The baby seems to be awake in womb more than he is outside it. Cast into outer light, baby tries, at first, to ignore reality. This is our first defence line. It stays with us as we grow up.
It has long been noted that pregnancy continues outside womb. The brain develops and reaches 75% of adult size by age of 2 years. It is completed only by age of 10. It takes, therefore, ten years to complete development of this indispensable organ – almost wholly outside womb. And this "external pregnancy" is not limited to brain only. The baby grows by 25 cm and by 6 kilos in first year alone. He doubles his weight by his fourth month and triples it by his first birthday. The development process is not smooth but by fits and starts. Not only do parameters of body change – but its proportions do as well. In first two years, for instance, head is larger in order to accommodate rapid growth of Central Nervous System. This changes drastically later on as growth of head is dwarfed by growth of extremities of body. The transformation is so fundamental, plasticity of body so pronounced – that in most likelihood this is reason why no operative sense of identity emerges until after fourth year of childhood. It calls to mind Kafka's Gregor Samsa (who woke up to find that he is a giant cockroach). It is identity shattering. It must engender in baby a sense of self-estrangement and loss of control over who is and what he is.
The Manifold of Sense - Part IIIWritten by Sam Vaknin
Feeling is a "hyper-concept" which is made of both sensation and emotion. It describes ways in which we experience both our world and our selves. It coincides with sensations whenever it has a bodily component. But it is sufficiently flexible to cover emotions and attitudes or opinions. But attaching names to phenomena never helped in long run and in really important matter of understanding them. To identify feelings, let alone to describe them, is not an easy task. It is difficult to distinguish among feelings without resorting to a detailed description of causes, inclinations and dispositions. In addition, relationship between feeling and emotions is far from clear or well established. Can we emote without feeling? Can we explain emotions, consciousness, even simple pleasure in terms of feeling? Is feeling a practical method, can it be used to learn about world, or about other people? How do we know about our own feelings?
Instead of throwing light on subject, dual concepts of feeling and sensation seem to confound matters even further. A more basic level needs to be broached, that of sense data (or sensa, as in this text).
Sense data are entities cyclically defined. Their existence depends upon being sensed by a sensor equipped with senses. Yet, they define senses to a large extent (imagine trying to define sense of vision without visuals). Ostensibly, they are entities, though subjective. Allegedly, they possess properties that we perceive in an external object (if it is there), as it appears to have them. In other words, though external object is perceived, what we really get in touch with directly, what we apprehend without mediation – are subjective sensa. What is (probably) perceived is merely inferred from sense data. In short, all our empirical knowledge rests upon our acquaintance with sensa. Every perception has as its basis pure experience. But same can be said about memory, imagination, dreams, hallucinations. Sensation, as opposed to these, is supposed to be error free, not subject to filtering or to interpretation, special, infallible, direct and immediate. It is an awareness of existence of entities: objects, ideas, impressions, perceptions, even other sensations. Russell and Moore said that sense data have all (and only) properties that they appear to have and can only be sensed by one subject. But these all are idealistic renditions of senses, sensations and sensa. In practice, it is notoriously difficult to reach a consensus regarding description of sense data or to base any meaningful (let alone useful) knowledge of physical world on them. There is a great variance in conception of sensa. Berkeley, ever incorrigible practical Briton, said that sense data exist only if and when sensed or perceived by us. Nay, their very existence IS their being perceived or sensed by us. Some sensa are public or part of lager assemblages of sensa. Their interaction with other sensa, parts of objects, or surfaces of objects may distort inventory of their properties. They may seem to lack properties that they do possess or to possess properties that can be discovered only upon close inspection (not immediately evident). Some sense data are intrinsically vague. What is a striped pajama? How many stripes does it contain? We do not know. It is sufficient to note (=to visually sense) that it has stripes all over. Some philosophers say that if a sense data can be sensed then they possibly exist. These sensa are called sensibilia (plural of sensibile). Even when not actually perceived or sensed, objects consist of sensibilia. This makes sense data hard to differentiate. They overlap and where one begins may be end of another. Nor is it possible to say if sensa are changeable because we do not really know WHAT they are (objects, substances, entities, qualities, events?).
Other philosophers suggested that sensing is an act directed at objects called sense data. Other hotly dispute this artificial separation. To see red is simply to see in a certain manner, that is: to see redly. This is adverbial school. It is close to contention that sense data are nothing but a linguistic convenience, a noun, which enables us to discuss appearances. For instance, "Gray" sense data is nothing but a mixture of red and sodium. Yet we use this convention (gray) for convenience and efficacy's sakes.
B. The Evidence
An important facet of emotions is that they can generate and direct behaviour. They can trigger complex chains of actions, not always beneficial to individual. Yerkes and Dodson observed that more complex a task is, more emotional arousal interferes with performance. In other words, emotions can motivate. If this were their only function, we might have determined that emotions are a sub-category of motivations.
Some cultures do not have a word for emotion. Others equate emotions with physical sensations, a-la James-Lange, who said that external stimuli cause bodily changes which result in emotions (or are interpreted as such by person affected). Cannon and Bard differed only in saying that both emotions and bodily responses were simultaneous. An even more far-fetched approach (Cognitive Theories) was that situations in our environment foster in us a GENERAL state of arousal. We receive clues from environment as to what we should call this general state. For instance, it was demonstrated that facial expressions can induce emotions, apart from any cognition.
A big part of problem is that there is no accurate way to verbally communicate emotions. People are either unaware of their feelings or try to falsify their magnitude (minimize or exaggerate them). Facial expressions seem to be both inborn and universal. Children born deaf and blind use them. They must be serving some adaptive survival strategy or function. Darwin said that emotions have an evolutionary history and can be traced across cultures as part of our biological heritage. Maybe so. But bodily vocabulary is not flexible enough to capture full range of emotional subtleties humans are capable of. Another nonverbal mode of communication is known as body language: way we move, distance we maintain from others (personal or private territory). It expresses emotions, though only very crass and raw ones.
And there is overt behaviour. It is determined by culture, upbringing, personal inclination, temperament and so on. For instance: women are more likely to express emotions than men when they encounter a person in distress. Both sexes, however, experience same level of physiological arousal in such an encounter. Men and women also label their emotions differently. What men call anger – women call hurt or sadness. Men are four times more likely than women to resort to violence. Women more often than not will internalize aggression and become depressed.
Efforts at reconciling all these data were made in early eighties. It was hypothesized that interpretation of emotional states is a two phased process. People respond to emotional arousal by quickly "surveying" and "appraising" (introspectively) their feelings. Then they proceed to search for environmental cues to support results of their assessment. They will, thus, tend to pay more attention to internal cues that agree with external ones. Put more plainly: people will feel what they expect to feel.