The origin of feelings

Emotions are apparently simpler than we think. Psychologist James Russell, as quoted in Lisa Feldman Barrett’s new book How Emotions Are Made (2018), came up with a very simple model that describes affect, or how we feel throughout our days.

It has two features only: how pleasant or unpleasant we feel (called valence) and how calm or agitated we feel (called arousal.)  The origin of feelings

There is no such thing as a Brain. It’s a Brain Burger.

Winnicott used to say:

“There is no such thing as a baby. There is a baby and someone.”

The same applies to brains. The brain does not exist independently of relationships, which are in part conditioned by the environment in which it lives. There is no such thing as a Brain. It’s a Brain Burger.

The world’s biggest problem

Our species’s greatest problem is that every new brain needs more attuned care than any parent finds pleasant to give. The proverbial “village” expertly provided this attuned care for the hundreds of thousands of years of our species’ development. Today, with our isolated western lifestyles, we are suffering from what researchers call an “epidemic of neglect.” The world’s biggest problem

All we need, in one drawing

Brains are for two things: pursue life and avoid death. On an ongoing basis, they need the will to pursue food, drinks, mates, whatever makes us live. After spurts of saving us from the claws of death, they need to calm back down and get on with the business of life. The settings “will to live” and “calm back down” are mainly hardwired during childhood when our genes interact with our environment (our caregivers, in the first years) to shape our brain.

Let’s be clear: it is fiendishly difficult for humanity to deliver on these two simple needs that every new generation has from the older one: a solid base from which to explore the world, and safe haven from stress. Two brilliant Marias, born fourty years apart, explained why. All we need, in one drawing

“Snakes and Ladders”: the game of psychological evolution

In the animated movie “The Croodz” set in prehistoric times, a grumpy grandmother hears the definition of a pet (“It’s an animal you don’t eat”) and responds, bewildered,  “We call those: children.” “Snakes and Ladders”: the game of psychological evolution