Chapter 2

From EMOTION:  Theory, Research, and Experience

Academic Press


by James P. Henry


Pp 37-60


Emotions of fear, anger, depression and their polar opposites, elation and relaxation

From the abstract:

“Each of these emotions have neocortical, limbic, and brainstem aspects.  Areas of particular significance are the amygdala, the locus ceruleus, the raphe nuclei, and the hippocampus.  Adrenal-medullary, pituitary adrenocortical and gonadotrophic hormones are also involved in determining the differential patterns seen in different emotions.  Evidence is reviewed to demonstrate the role of neuroendocrine factors in various “archetypes” that find expression in such patterns as maternal behavior, feeding, mother-infant bonding, sex differences, aggression, incest avoidance, phobias, certain aspects of language, and love.  Demonstration of these patterns makes more acceptable the concept of an inbuilt, archetypal, biogrammar.  (henry/np/37)”


“Thus deep in the brainstem’s pons there are regions that may prove to be the roots of the limbic system’s fear, anger, and depression.  (Henry/np/41)”


amygdala –(see Teicher/nc/under amygdala may trigger fight or flight)

locus ceruleus

raphe nuclei



“The basic question facing any mammal is the degree of control that it can exert over its environment.  (henry/np/37)”

“Weiss’s [1972, Psychological factors in stress and disease.  Scientific American, 226, 104-113] extensive studies…have shown that the extent to which a mammal perceives the situation as being under its control is of the greatest importance in determining the intensity of the emotion experienced.  (Henry/np/38)”


“There is evidence that a mere challenge to control arouses anger;

a different response from the fear that follows a perceived threat to the possibility of loss of effective control.

Panicky, helpless states where the animal perceives no possibility of control represent yet another pattern of neuroendocrine arousal.  (Henry/np/38)”


“…Panksepp has presented four hardwired neural circuits in the visceral-limbic brain as the basic facilitators of these diverse adaptive behavioral and physiological responses to various classes of environmental challengeThey serve the central states of



fear, and


the last named is considered to be an aspect of the separation distress that follows social loss.  (Panksepp, 1982).  [Panksepp, J. 1982, Toward a general psychological theory of emotions.  Behavior and Brain Science, 5, 407-467].  (Henry/np/38)”

“As Plutchik points out, the emotions are elaborated into feelings via the neocortex by a process of blending analogous to the way in which the primary colors can be used to produce any described hue; but the bedrock of response to the various challenges imposed by the life issues of territoriality and attachment remains the emotions (Plutchik, 1984).  [Plutchik, R, 1984, Emotions:  A general psychoevolutionary theory.  In K.R. Scherer & P. Ekman (Eds) Approaches to emotion.  Hillsdale, NJ; Lawrence Earlbaum Associates]



Anger and fear can be differentiated “in terms of the cardiovascular response involved.  (Henry/np/38)”

++  anger significantly increases blood pressure, pulse rate, and finger temperature (more than fear) = sympathetic tone response

++ measuring the secretion of catecholamines, “the higher the ratio of norepinephrine to epinephrine in the urine, the greater the degree of aggressiveness observed.  (Henry/np/38)”

++ catecholamines:  norepinephrine & epinephrine

++ anger = higher norepinephrine

sympathetic response


++ “The biosynthesis of norepinephrine is dependent on neural activity in the medulla, and the tyrosine hydroxylase produced there is controlled by sympathetic nerves.  (Henry/np/42)”

++ “resting sympathetic tone was elevated secondary to chronic feelings of:

++ irritability, resentment, “found life full of all too familiar, unpleasant situations”

++ anger arousal

++ cardioacceleration

++ active, intense competition = sharp rise of noradrenaline

++ great effort being directed at mastery

++ related to intensely aggressive behavior in those “tough” individuals who rate high in McClelland’s [ McClelland, 1979, Inhibited power motivation and high blood pressure in men.  Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 88, 182-190] “need for power” scale (Henry/np/39)

++ fear = high epinephrine excretion in urine

parasympathetic response



++ phobic autonomic response

++ slowing of the heart, i.e., parasympathetic response on exposure to threatening stimulus, social or other

++ with fear of failure, question of adequacy (social stress exposure)  = adrenaline is released


Fight – flight

Distress – loss of control

Response systems

“…separate mechanisms are involved in the fight and the flight responses…. [It also appears that there are 2 separate emotions available in fear itself.] Fear and anger are associated with different physical locations in the amygdala, different behaviors and different outflow to the brainstem and spinal cord, resulting in the well-established different fight and flight cardiovascular responses of the

sympathetic adrenal medullary system.



++ FLIGHT, escape

++ defensive

++ basal portion of the amygdalar nuclei – amygdalar basal nucleus

++ vascular response typical of epinephrine effects

++ vasodilation mediated by excitation of cholinergic fibers

++ modest increase of heart rate

++ modest increase of blood pressure

++ “When the feeling of fear-anxiety predominates, the response involves basal amygdalar activation with a predominance of epinephrine….  Pulse and blood pressure do not rise so dramatically…  This is, in part, because there is a decrease in resistance in the vascular bed of the muscles as a result of activation of the cholinergic system.  the [sic on cap] overall response of an anxious animal is one of a sudden, intense explosion of muscular effort directed towards flight with increased cardiac output.  Glucose levels increase and other metabolic changes prepare the animal for the demands of rapid and often prolonged escape from threat.

On the one hand, the fear-anxiety response is concerned with flight and involves intense physical and mental goal-directed escape activity.

But in addition to the direct resort to flight,

anxiety that induces a sense of helplessness

will be (Henry/np/ 41) associated with a rise of the distress hormone [andrenocorticotrophic hormone ACTH produced by the pituitary gland] adrenocorticotropin (ACTH).

The effect is to make the organism more readily learn new patterns of behavior (Deweid et al., 1972).

These are needed when the existing behavioral repertoire is not appropriate for new social circumstances (Kinsbourne, 1981).  For example, after defeat the victor imposes new patterns of behavior on the newly subordinated.

Thus fear-anxiety can be a mixture of the active flight response that attempts to control by running away “to live to fight another day”

with the conservation-withdrawal response; the latter is associated with depression and helplessness and activation of the pituitary-adrenal cortical axis with release of the adrenal cortical hormones (Henry & Stephens, 1977).  (Henry/np/42)”


This mixture of emotions involved in fear is expressed at a biological level by the extraordinary grafting during evolution of the two separate glands that together form the adrenal of the mammal.  (Henry/np/42)”

The interrenal and adrenal glands of birds and reptiles combine in mammals, and one becomes the cortex and completely surrounds the other (medulla).  (Henry/np/42)”

This results in a combination of the separate nervous and hormonal response capabilities of two organs whose mechanisms of response differ (Axelrod & Weinshilboum, 1972).  (Henry/np/42)”

The biosynthesis of norepinephrine is dependent on neural activity in the medulla, and the tyrosine hydroxylase produced there is controlled by sympathetic nerves.  (Henry/np/42)”

On the other hand, the production of the fear-anxiety hormone epinephrine in the medulla, by the methylation of norepinephrine, is accomplished by an enzyme that is in turn controlled by the action on the adrenal cortex of the andrenocorticotrophic hormone ACTH produced by the pituitary gland.  (Henry/np/42)”

The production of this hormone in response to anxiety depends on the degree of distress; this involves hippocampal activation of the pituitary system.  (Henry/np/42)”


++ FIGHT, aggression

++ offensive preparation for attack

++ central portion of amygdala – amygdalar central nucleus

++ sharp increase of heart rate

++ sharp increase of blood pressure

++ release of norepinephrine

++ The level of adrenal cortical hormones (e.g., cortisol) does not necessarily increase in the pure fight pattern of response.  (Henry/np/41)”

++ “If it is perceived that the challenge can be mastered, an attempt is made to master the threat by fight, effort, and persistence, and the subjective feeling will be anger.

The ongoing activation of right and/or left hypothalamic controls of the autonomic system result in a release of norepinephrine.

Blood pressure and pulse rate rise.

In anger, norepinephrine excretion in the urine rises more sharply than that of epinephrine.

There is an increase in beta sympathetic outflow to the renin-producing cells in the kidney as well as to the adrenal medulla, where the amount of tyrosine hydroxylase, the norepinephrine synthesizing enzyme, increases.

Testosterone will increase due to an elevation of the gonadotrophic hormone.  (Henry/np/41)”



loss of control, submission, subordination,

depression, helplessness

++ “Defeat activates the parasympathetic or so-called trophotrophic vagal response:

Antidiuretic hormone is released, the heart slows, and the muscle vessels relax (Henry, 1984)….  The combined effects can lead to syncope.  This fainting, in response to threat, is a short term noncatecholamine response which

does not involve the fight or flight mechanism.

In effect the subject feigns death to survive the immediate crisis (Henry, 1984).

This represents an extension of the less dramatic hippocampal adrenal cortical defeat pattern of neuroendocrine response.

As noted, the latter leads to a relearning of old response patterns, as well as inhibition of activity and mobilization of metabolic resources, to deal with the loss of blood and pain of wounds, thus giving the animal a chance to escape and survive (DeWied et al., 1972).  (Henry/np/44)”


++ “The ACTH needed to induce the production of epinephrine represents a response independent of the fight or the flight mechanism.

It is intimately related to the complex social context in which higher animals live.

The ACTH corticosterone-endorphin mechanism can be aroused independently of fear-anxiety when,

instead of fight or flight,

the animal despairs and submits

to the situation (Henry, 1983; Henry & Meehan, 1981).

ACTH is associated with depression, loss of effort, and inhibition of previous behavioral patterns (DeWied, Van Delft, Gispen, Weijen, Van Wimersma Greidanus, 1972).

In a competitive situation the result of ACTH activation is submission.

The ACTH is also responsible for the level of adrenal cortical secretion which has the striking effect of inducing euphoria, thus countering the depression induced by ACTH (Leshner & Politch, 1979).

At the same time the closely related endorphins that are released during distress act like morphine and the defeated, submissive animal “feels no pain” as a result of combined endogenous opiate and corticosterone activity (Miczek, Thompson & Schuster, 1982)  (Henry/np/43)”

This sounds exactly like Shore’s description of dissociation.


++ “Not only do the corticoids lead to the release of glucose and help to increase blood volume, they also affect T and B cell activity (Riley, 1975).  The complexities of the humoral immune response have not yet been unraveled, and the respective contributions of catecholamines and corticoids have not been determined (McClelland, Floor, Davidson & Saron, 1980).  However it is clear that defeat and suppression of responses tends to be associated with a disturbance in the effectiveness of the immune protective system.  (Visitainer, Volpicelli & Seligman, 1982).  (Henry/np/43)”

“Glucocorticoids appear to modulate alterations in receptors creating permissive effects directed at catecholaminergic phenomena.  This occurs in the brain, the adrenal, and the peripheral sympathetic system…..  certain types of adaptation in the catecholaminergic system require the presence or even the elevation of plasma clucocorticoids (Dunn & Kramarcy, 1984).  (Henry/np/43)”

Yes, despair from defeat can be an opportunity to learn new behaviors, but when one’s entire brain was built through the infant and childhood reality of terrible abuse, the underlying despair that built the brain can be nearly overwhelming.  Where does one begin if such was the case?  One can never start over and have the opportunity to build a brand new brain.  That just doesn’t happen.  What, then, are the alternatives?

I cannot “groom.”  I cannot participate with people in their world of “relaxed” small talk.  Raised in a world of isolation, those parts of my brain that were meant to be social did not develop.  I cannot pay that kind of attention.  I cannot make those kinds of associations.

For some reason, the man who has the key will not use it.  He leaves me in this isolation.  Just as well.  He could not really “come in here with me.”  Never.

All I can do is “pretend to be a person,” and that takes a lot of effort.  There is nothing truly fulfilling or meaningful to me about it.  But at least now I know what the loneliness is, and where it comes from.  I understand I cannot escape it, or change it.  It is something built into the fabric of my brain.

I tried all sorts of things before.  Joining the Baha’is, marrying Leonard, going to ceremonies, going to graduate school, even being with Mel, so that I could belong somewhere with somebody.  It didn’t work.  I managed to raise my children with as much integrity as I could muster.  I have had many times of feeling connected to Ernie.  But he makes it as hard as it could possibly be, and I am afraid once I lose him in my life for good, that will be the end.




“At fully aware, cognitive level, the left and right parietal and frontal associational neocortex is primary.  (Henry/np/40)”

“Still cognitive but at an emotional level, limbic system structures are also involved.  (Henry/np/40)”


++ has “…an important role in determining whether a certain situation carried a positive approach or a negative avoidance value for the organism.  (Henry/np/40)”

++  importance of flight or flight mechanism intimately connected with the amygdala

++ linked to the locus ceruleus


++ “at the more primitive level of brainstem awareness (Henry/np/40)”

  1. ++ “…switches between basic cognitions of turning to deal with exigencies in the outer world (i.e., extraversion) and turning to meditation, grooming, and dreaming sleep (i.e., introversion) (Aston-Jones, Foote & Bloom, 1983)   (Henry/np/40)”

++  possibly left hemisphere = active coping

++ right hemisphere = “depressive dreams and imagery” (Henry/np/41)

[this was a suspicion in 1986, not proven]

++ “The locus ceruleus is concerned with the organism’s choice of outward or inward directed action….  (Henry/np/41)”

++ “…linked to the amygdala through the sympathetic…. (Henry/np/41)”


++ region near the locus ceruleus

++ involved with emotion

++ serotonin-rich

++ “plasma serotonin increases in a dominant monkey (Henry/np/41)”

++ “This region appears to facilitate the hippocampal recognition of mismatch, the loss of control and of defeat.  (Henry/np/41)”

++ the raphe is concerned “…with the related [choice of outward or inward directed action] perception of control or loss of control.  (Henry/np/41)”

++ linked “…through serotonin to the hippocampus (Henry/np/41)”


++ linked through serotonin to the raphe

++ [copied from RAPHE] ++ “This region appears to facilitate the hippocampal recognition of mismatch, the loss of control and of defeat.  (Henry/np/41)”

++ involved with serotonin

++  [copied from MEDULLA] ++ “…the production of the fear-anxiety hormone epinephrine in the medulla, by the methylation of norepinephrine, is accomplished by an

enzyme that is in turn controlled by the action on the adrenal cortex of the andrenocorticotrophic hormone ACTH produced by the pituitary gland.  (Henry/np/42)”

The production of this hormone in response to anxiety depends on the degree of distress; this involves hippocampal activation of the pituitary system.  (Henry/np/42)”

++ “…the pituitary adrenal cortical response to stress is controlled by the hippocampus….

The hippocampus has an inhibitory role in regulating stress responses of the adrenal cortex….

The hippocampus acts as a brake on the pituitary adrenocortical system protecting it from excessive activity.  (Henry/np/42)”

++ “Linked to this action of the hippocampus on the pituitary adrenal axis…it functions as the core of a neural memory system that receives abstracted (Henry/np/42) information from all sensory modalities.

The input is compared with the body’s cognitive map of the environment.

The outcome of this matching determines the interest in, and response to, an idea.

A mismatch between the inner map and the current milieu is a measure of the degree of distress due to uncertainty.

The route for this response releasing inhibition appears to be via the medial corticohypothalamic tract.

Thus the hippocampus forms a critical part of the subtle coordination of the organism’s adrenal cortical response to novelty or discrepancy, especially with events in the social environment.

A dramatic example of such a mismatch is the perception of loss of an attached figure, such as a parent by child.  (Henry/np/43)”


++  see above, HIPPOCAMPUS matching route

++ right and/or left controls of the autonomic system???

++ resulting release of norepinephrine???  (how about epinephrine??)


++ “The biosynthesis of norepinephrine is dependent on neural activity in the medulla, and the tyrosine hydroxylase produced there is controlled by sympathetic nerves.  (Henry/np/42)”

++ “On the other hand, the production of the fear-anxiety hormone epinephrine in the medulla,

by the methylation of norepinephrine,

is accomplished by an enzyme

that is in turn controlled by the action on the adrenal cortex

of the andrenocorticotrophic hormone ACTH produced by the pituitary gland.  (Henry/np/42)”

The production of this hormone in response to anxiety depends on the degree of distress;

this involves hippocampal activation of the pituitary system.  (Henry/np/42)”



This is the way Henry has set up his chart:




FORE                  SIGHT


ANALYSIS                 SYNTHESIS

LOGIC                            INSIGHT




EMOTION                    ANGER                               FEAR                    DEPRESSION


CENTRAL                            BASAL                      SEPTUM

NUCLEUS                           NUCLEUS

BEHAVIOR                  FIGHT-EFFORT                    FLIGHT                 LOSS OF

PERSISTENCE                      EFFORT                 CONTROL



NEURO-                          BP SHARP UP            BP MODEST UP          BP EVEN

ENDOCRINE              PULSE SHARP UP        PULSE MOD UP         PULSE SLIGHT                                                                                                       DOWN




EPI MOD UP                  EPI SHARP UP           CORISOL





SHARP UP                                                         SHARP DOWN

CORTISOL EVEN                                      CATECHOLAMINES


P 45 – elevated plasma

Corticosterone (corticoids)

Under Figure 2.1 he states:

“A synthesis of the views expressed in the text concerning the negative emotions:  anger, fear, and depression.  The first two are associated with the fight-flight aspects of the sympathetic adrenal medullary axis, respectively.  The behaviors and the neuroendocrine patterns typical of each are presented in their respective boxes.  The bradycardia often associated with loss of control represents vagal (i.e., parasympathetic) activation.  (Henry/np/40)”





++ bipolar aspect to the neuroendocrine patterns of the response of anger & fear, as well as to depression:

++ opposite pole to the anger – fear (fight – flight) pole is serenity-relaxation

++ the opposite of anger & fear is serenity & relaxation

“This is expressed in animals by grooming behavior and in man possibly by meditation.  (Henry/np/44)”

For those of us unsocialized types, polite conversation sounds like boring, annoying, irritating, yapping, barking dogs.

++ opposite pole to depression & helplessness

“The opposite pole to the depression and helplessness of loss of attachment…is ..elation.  Elation accompanies a sense of control and the perception of bonding, nurturance, and grooming.  (Henry/np/44)”


“The diagram illustrates the response to the perception of control and to being the recipient of social support.  [Boy, that is something I never felt as a child!]

The frontotemporal association cortex releases impulses, activating feelings of serenity.

A typical behavior of the relaxed animal is to groom and be groomed (Kling, Deutsch & Steklis, 1977).

It may be that in the female the act of nursing relates to this response.  [Does the baby feel this?  Is this response oxytocin related?]

In humans, friendly, polite conversations may represent a form of grooming[Cindy just told me of a book she read that talked about laughter and chuckling between 2 or more people who know one another happens frequently.  I’ll have to try to notice this.]

Patel’s current work on meditation and relaxation shows this state will reduce blood pressure and pulse rate with an accompanying reduction of sympathetic outflow and plasma renin (Patel, Marmot & Terry, 1981).  The extent of these changes depends on the degree of experience of the subject in relaxing….the effects of relaxation on blood pressure are statistically significant.  (Luborsky et al., 1982)”  (Henry/np/44)”


“The role of elation in the perception of control and support, as opposed to loss of control and depression, has received little quantitative study.  (Henry/np/44)”

Wouldn’t this be the other way around?  If one has support, and feels “in control,” don’t they naturally feel elated?  How could they NOT?

“Bourne’s studies of troops in dangerous combat in Vietnam showed remarkable reduction of corticoids when there was bonding between the men, as in the case of helicopter medics and the downed pilots they were rescuing (Bourne, 1970)”  (Henry/np/45)”

“…during elation and (Henry/np/45) the perception of social support, the reduction of adrenocorticotrophic hormones and lowered endorphins (Levine, Coe, Smotherman & Kaplan, 1978) are accompanied by a rise in testosterone in the male (Mazur & Lamb, 1980).  In the female there is probably an increase of the corresponding gonadotrophin-driven estrogen and progesterone as well as testosterone.  (Henry/np/46)”


“Levine has shown in primates that an increased level of corticoids characterizes separation-depression (Levine et al., 1978) [Prolonged cortisol elevation in the infant squirrel monkey after reunion with mother.  Physiology and Behavior, 20, 7-10].  This can be accompanied by an increase or by a decrease in activation of the catecholamines system, indicating that they operate independently.  …there can be parallel but independent stimulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal and adrenergic systems in depressed patients….Plasma norepinephrine and epinephrine is higher in patients with evidence of depression…. (Henry/np/46)”

“…an effort to control, that is not associated with distress, involves an independent release of catecholamines…release of cortisol only when the subject experienced distress and perceived loss of mastery of the task at hand.  This process proceeds independently of the response of the catecholamines system to a challenge that demands effort….  There are basic differences between the physiology of defeat and subordination, and that of aggression and victory.  Defeat involves activation of the hippocampal-septal mechanism with the release of adrenocorticotrophic hormone, and victory involves adrenal stimulation by neuronal factors, an increase in adrenal catecholamines, in trosine hydroxylase (the measure of catecholamines synthetic capacity), and (Henry/np/46) maintenance of effort to control accompanied by release of norepinephrine into the plasma.  (Henry/np/47)”

“Figure 2.3 derived from a study of catecholamines and peptide secretion from the pituitary by Berkenbosch (1983).  It summarizes the conclusions of recent work by Henry (1982, 193) that points towards the association of different neuroendocrine patterns of response with different emotions (Berkenbosch, 1983).  As stated above, the bias towards aggression, escape, or submission results fro thperdominance or subordination in the course of social interaction.  Each leads to a different pattern of neuroendocrine activation.  The hormonal profile of successful aggression is associated with high-noradrenaline and high-plasma testosterone; the profile of threat to control with flight and with high adrenaline; and the profile associated with loss of control with high cortisol and low testosterone.  (Henry/np/47)”


CHALLENGE                           THREAT                              LOSS OF

TO CONTROL                          TO CONTROL                    CONTROL

(POSITIVE)                                (AMBIVALENT)               (NEGATIVE)

sympathetic-adrenal                                    pituitary-

medullary system                                       adrenal

activated by challenge                              cortical system

to control of the                                        activated with

environment                                             threat


(COPING STYLE)                      ACHIEVEMENT             AVOIDANCE          SUBMISSION

AGGRESSION                      ESCAPE          HELPLESSNESS

RESULT                                    CONTROL OF                 REMOVAL OF         VICTIM OF

SITUATION                     SITUATION              SITUATION

EMOTIONAL                          ASSERTIVE                  APPREHENSIVE         DEPRESSED

STATE                                  LOW ANXIETY              TENSE, FEARFUL            HIGH


HORMONAL                  NORADRENALINE           ADRENALINE             CORTISOL HIGH

LEVELS                          & TESTOS  TERONE              HIGH                         TESTOSTERONE

HIGH                                                                         LOW

FIGURE 2.3.  “The neuroendocrine response to challenge varies according to the perception of control. Contrasting behavioral response patterns of aggression, escape, and submission result from perception of dominance (i.e., control or subordination).  In general the

sympathetic-adrenal medullary system is activated by challenge to control of the environment, and the

pituitary-adrenal cortical system is activated with the threat of perception of failure to meet expectations (Henry, 1982; Berkenbosch, 1983).  (Henry/np/47)”


“Different profiles were found for different stressors…..  the hormones did not respond to physical stressors, like heat, so much as to the emotion involved in the stress situation.  The affective or emotional components of stress response usually proved to be of more (Henry/np/47) importance than the somatic aspects.  For example, the corticosterone of a starving monkey did not increase as long as nonnutritive, pleasant tasting pellets deceived him into thinking he was being fed.  Mason (1975) contended that we have moved from seeing the endocrine system as controlled largely by humoral, self-regulatory mechanisms, to the view that a wide range of psychologic influences can profoundly affect hormonal balance, on both a short and a long term basis…..changes in hormonal levels lead to altered physiological states.  In turn, these altered states can lead to irreversible damage….  (Henry/np/48)”


Plasma cortisol levels rise in a change of state from elation, solidarity and bonding toward depression, helplessness and loss of attachment.



When Ernie ignores me, which is most of the time, but especially on weekends – I feel my entire existence is threatened.  My “going on being” and my “live to fight another day.”

I believe this is deeply connected in my body, in my brain, in my mind – in my emotions – to an innate “biogram” from the biogrammar Henry mentions that I was born with.

This would have to do with the innate responses we are born with.  It is “stuff” that was with us from “before the beginning.”  It is a part of “language” in that it is at the roots of our species – of life.  It has to do with knowing from at least the moment we are born what we need to stay alive – what is necessary for our survival.

We are born entirely dependent upon our external environment.  Yet we can recognize our caregivers nearly instantly, and infants will do whatever they can to interact with their environment – which means initially with their caregivers – to get their survival needs met.

What Henry is saying is that what we NEED is to exert control over our environment – IF – we need to stay alive, which I will suggest is a certain given.

Fundamentally it means that initially we must be accepted by our caregiver.  Call it bonding, attachment, whatever you wish.  In essence it means that we must be “gathered” into the litter by our caregiver – even though as humans we are usually a litter of one.

To be the runt is a bad thing.  To be rejected at birth is a bad thing.

What I am suggesting is that we are born with the innate ability to KNOW if this happens to us, when it IS happening to us, and what to do when it does.  Because it is in our “innate language,” our “biogrammar,”to survive by using our known behaviors, which from birth include perhaps only the ability to scream and wave our unconsciously controlled body parts around – to get attention – that is what we will do.  That is ACTIVE COPING, and if there is a delay in getting our needs met through this active coping method of attempting to control our environment, we will get, first and foremost – absolutely FURIOUSLY ANGRY!

Our tiny bodies will produce all those wonderful stress chemicals related to anger – an increasing arousal of our sympathetic branch of our ANS – and if this state continues unabated, our body will poison us (and our developing brain).  Toxic is as toxic does.

If nothing works, we will eventually become afraid – etc with the chemical toxins – but the essence of this, according to Henry, is that we realize that our known behaviors are not working – at which point we are poised on the brink.

The physiological, biochemical, neurological, biological BRINK!


If no other behavior has worked, our only other option regarding the KNOWN behavior is FLIGHT – to escape, run away, etc.  If that is not a possibility – we are left with despair and an entirely new system takes over.  We tip off of the BRINK point into the world of the unknown, which is initiated by helplessness.  Total loss of control.

And it prepares the brain to learn something new that will work to ensure our survival, or we die.  Pretty basic.  Pretty simple.  Pretty awesome – and usually pretty awful


This has nothing to do with a happy state of excitation related to the joy of curiosity and the discovery of new things that will allow us to expand our world and our capacities to interact with it.

This is not about a safe, well-ordered, secure world

This is not about belonging.

This is what happens when we are ALL ALONE with nobody to help us, and our existence continues only IF we can meet the foe through submission, or die in utter defeat after we put out all the effort we could on our own behalf.

It happens when we have no caregivers, no litter mates, no pack, no tribe, no family – zero social support.

It happens when we have been groomed for death rather than groomed for life, and it is a state and condition of dire emergency.  Either we will emerge alive, or we will emerge DEAD.

The world is not a complicated place at this point – this zero point.  True, as we approach a state of despair where all possibilities open up to us to learn something NEW that will allow us to survive because nothing in our repertoire helped us or we would not BE in this place of despair – but until if we know if we are to be dead or alive with our next breath – life is pretty cut and dried, matter of fact, life or death.  Either we live, or we don’t!  And at this moment there is NO THING we can do, we are totally powerless and have no control over what happens to us next.

Trauma, btw, always does this to us.  That’s what makes it trauma.  Pure peritrauma is not about choice.  It’s about live or die.  Choices either come later, or they do not come at all.


We don’t usually think of a human infant as being born with the ability to utilize active coping techniques to enable it to gain control and mastery over its environment.  But it is – and it does.

That is biogrammar.

And what happens when active coping techniques fail is also a part of our biogrammar.  It is innate.  It is programmed into our species’ DNA.  It is hardwired into our being on every level.

We move through stages – either going directly to despair of submission, or going through the perceived threat to our control over our environment – anger while we fight for control – fear when we lose control over our environment – helplessness – despair – death or a new-way – route.


If we are born and raised in this type of traumatic environment, we will get an emergency brain – a different brain than those get who are raised in a safe, supportive, nurturing environment.

Our brains are always emerging because they did not get what they needed to be able to end the process by becoming self-regulated beings capable of autonomy.  We are in need – all of the time – for stimulation, regulation, modulation – in a different way than regular people are.  They can participate in give and take – we just take – even when we think we are giving – because everything we do in our lives is about our emergency brain and from our emergency brain – our unfinished symphony of a self that isn’t yet a self.


I think my mother got stuck somewhere in this cycle.  Her true state of impassable emergency probably happened after her brain had partly formed safely and partly didn’t – stuck at a point where her mind could imagine and “play” –but never did she progress to a place of reality.

This must be a place of feigning death where she never recovered.  She did not physically die – but she might as well have because from whatever level she took the detour, she never made it back.


There must be safety in a child’s life for a platform of serenity to be created within it.  Serenity, calmness, relaxation is the point of homeostatic equilibrium that must be the NORM from which a vacillation toward the arousal of elation, joy, enjoyment comes from.

An emergency brain has a different NORM – anger, fear and despair dominated the creation of these brains, and is built, therefore, into their fundamental fiber and structure.  Even getting to the occasional point of calm requires massive effort – let alone getting to a point of escalating joy.

What is vital for us to realize is that these individuals are “not at fault” as the AA Big Book might note, but neither were they “born that way.”  They were made that way through the nature of the peritraumatic interactions they had with the individuals within their infant environments.


(Narcissistic:  like trying to play with a child that always has to have its own way – EMR = dismissive avoidant attachment disorder)


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