n-Dimensional Emotional Hyperspace

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In an earlier post on meeting your personal Jungian archetypes, and discussed in my new Guru book above, I mentioned emotional neural circuits and that the archetypes were closely associated with these. Here I want to expand on that and combine it with my 2009 idea and webpage on n-dimensional emotional hyperspace. In later posts I will relate these to our comfort zone and spiritual growth. In this post I am just laying the foundation for these later discussions.

First, let me review my original idea about n-dimensional emotional hyperspace starting with Fig 1 below:

Figure 1. n-dimensional emotional hyperspace as originally presented.

“n” is the number of basic emotions as shown above and equals seven in this case. Each emotion is in its own dimension, i. e. has its own axis. Being humans we can only “envision” three dimensions of space (length, width, and depth), then add the forth dimension of time. For perspective then, we live in a four-dimensional space-time continuum.

Each of these dimensions is independent of the others, meaning you can move down the axis of say time, without affecting your position along any of the space dimensions. Graphically, we say that they are orthogonal (90°) to each other. In a our two dimensional drawing here, imagine each emotional axis going off into a different dimension. Of course you can not draw that, but you can represent it as I have tried to do in my drawing above.

Mathematically, you can theoretically have any number of dimension. Much of quantum physics’ string theory does this, pointing to the possible existance of up to ten dimensions.

Several additional points about the model:

Rating scale for intensity: Each emotion is scaled on a 0 to 10 scale of intensity. I often have patients do this is in therapy. I have them rate their feelings on a scale of 0 to 10 for the intensity of their emotion, such as sadness, where 0 is no sadness and 10 is the strongest sadness they can imagine. Only two emotional axises are so labeled as such in Figure 1.

Also to reiterate something I wrote in earlier posts and discuss in more detail in Guru, “emotions” are our underlying psycho-physiological response to a stimulus, whereas “feelings” refer to our conscious awareness of those underlying emotions.

Again, orthogonality means that the axises are independent of each other in our emotional hyperspace, i.e. they are at 90° from each other.

Can we feel more than one emotion at a time? That is, are our emotions really independent of each other? Can we be both happy and sad, for example? Can we feel happy and shame at the same time? Happiness is the culprit here. It is the only positive emotion. The rest are all negative emotions. We can definitely feel a mix of emotions about something or someone and they are independent of each other as outlined above.

We can have love-hate relationships for example. Or we can love someone, but not like them–our teens often fit into this category at least at times. My brother does. I have not discussed “love” as an emotion. Maybe more on this later. It is worthy of a blog (chapter/book) by itself. Our emotional hyperspace model here is conceptual, not rigorously accurate. It is useful for helping us understand how our emotions affect us. Now let me expand this concept to emotional neural circuits.

Emotional Neural Circuits

I would like to reframe our model above neurologically in terms of our emotional neural circuits. We now know much more about these circuits compared to when I proposed the original model. I spend a lot of time in my Guru book on the emotional neural circuits as they pertain to the archetypes. I thought about presenting this model there, but it was already so full of the science stuff, I decided not to. The reasons this model is helpful is because some of the emotion listed above, e.g. loneliness and sadness, engage more than one neural circuit. Also, it takes our understanding of emotions to the neurobiological level, allowing a more global understanding of what is happening.

Here is the updated n-dimensional emotional neurocircuit model:

Figure 2. n-dimensional emotional neurocircuit hyperspace

Notice that except for the FEAR dimension, there is not much correspondence between Fig 1, the emotional hyperspace model, and Fig 2, the neurocircuits involved in our emotions. For example, sadness and loneliness–there are no emotional neurocircuits for these emotions, although they wil call into play some of the neurocircuits. Sadness results from say when our SEEKING neurocircuit is thwarted or blocked, and we can’t seek or find what we are seeking. Sadness is a results of changes at the neurotransmitter level, most notably serotonin. Loneliness activates the SEEKING and PANIC circuits. Let us take a quick look-see at these neurocircuits and what they do. I go into them in much greater detail in my Guru book.

As McGowen points out there are four primary and three secondary neural circuits that have been identified. (SEEKING, RAGE, FEAR, PANIC, PLAY, LUST, and CARE; see Guru Appendix 1 for more details.) Below, I give a slightly condensed summary from Guru:

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