What are the instinctual sources of our basic emotions?
Many of the emotions that we feel do not have to be learned. They are there from birth. We do not need to learn to fear a sheer cliff edge, nor the joy of reunion with family or the sense of wonder in the Patagonian wilderness. There are neural systems in the very ancient parts of our brain, structures that we share with all other mammals, that make us ready to feel our way through the unpredictable world around us.
Jack Panksepp was the founder of “affective neuroscience”, the field dedicated to uncovering the neural foundation of our basic emotional states.
There are 7 systems in the subcortical brain that are the source of our affective lives and I draw on these as I explore the neural underpinnings of the feelings that are evoked when we travel. See if you can identify them in your own everyday lives. They are:
- SEEKING: Curiosity / interest / anticipation
- FEAR: Foreboding / terror re physical safety
- CARE: Nurturing / concern / bonding / attachment
- RAGE: Fury / frustration / hate / irritability
- PLAY: Fun / joviality / joy / laughter
- PANIC/GRIEF: Separation anxiety / loss / sadness / fear of social insecurity.
- LUST: Sexual desire
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