Chapter 50 Regulation



“The self is created within the processes that organize the activity of the mind in its interactions with the world.  (siegel/tdm/239)”

This is self-organization.

“The structure of the brain gives it an innate capacity to modulate emotion and to organize its states of activation.  (siegel/tdm/241)”

“The mind’s ability to regulate emotional processes is essentially the ability of the brain to modulate the flow of arousal and activation throughout its circuits.” (seigel/tdm/245)

“How we experience the world, relate to others, and find meaning in life are dependent upon how we have come to regulate our emotions.  (siegel/tdm/245)”

emotional regulation can be seen at the center of the self-organization of the mind.  (siegel/tdm/245)”



“At a given moment in time, the array of possible mental activity becomes organized within a mental state that functions to create a cohesive set of goal-directed processes.  Across time, we can understand how continuity is created within a given self-state through the various principles of complexity, connectionism, and information processing.  Integrating these processes is emotion.  (siegel/tdm/239)”

“…emotions function as “central organizers and integrators” in linking several domains:  providing all incoming stimuli with specific meaning and motivational direction; participating in state-dependent memory processes; connecting mental processes “synchronically” and “diachronically” (within one time and across time); creating more complex interconnections among abstract representational processes that share emotional meaning; and simultaneously attuning the whole organism to the current situational demands on the basis of past experience through neurophysiologically mediated peripheral effects.  Such organizing features intimately link what are traditionally considered the mental, social, (siegel/tdm/239) and biological domains…emotions are inherently integrative in their function.  (siegel/tdm/240)”

“…emotion is both regulated and regulatory.  In its manifestations as neurophysiological events, subjective experiences, and interpersonal expressions, emotion interconnects various systems within the mind and between minds.  Focusing on emotion regulation allows us to explore how the mind becomes organized and integrated.  (Siegel/tdm/240)”

“Intimate attunements permit a resonance of states of mind that are mutually regulating.  Misattunements lead to dysregulation, which requires “interactive repair” if the child is to regain equilibrium.  Achieving emotion regulation is dependent upon social interactions.  At this early point, according to Sroufe, the child has become an emotional being – not merely a reactive one – in that arousal or tension is created via evaluative appraisals that create subjective meaning in engagements with the environment.  As infancy gives way to the toddler period, dyadic regulation is supplanted by “caregiver-guided self-regulation,” in which the adult helps the child begin to regulate states of mind autonomously.  As the child’s brain matures into the preschool years, the emergence of increasingly complex layers of self-regulation becomes possible. (siegel/tdm/240)”

“From our discussion of complexity, we can see that emotion and the development of emotion regulation move the self into more complex states of intra-and intersystem functioning.  Emotion regulation that allows the mind a flexible manner in which to emerge in interaction with the environment reflects optimal state regulation….the prefrontally mediated capacity for response flexibility may be a central component to such a balanced capacity.  Emotion “dysregulation” can be seen as impairments in this capacity to allow flexible and organized responses that are adaptive to the internal and external environment…such dysregulation can have its origins in constitutional elements, interactional experience, and the transaction between these two fundamental components of the mind.  (siegle/tdm/241)”


“The structure of the brain gives it an innate capacity to modulate emotion and to organize its states of activation.  Sometimes referred to as “affect regulation,” this capacity is crucial for the internal and interpersonal functioning of the individual.  Any of a number of psychiatric disturbances can be viewed as disorders of self-regulation.  Among these are the mood disorders, in which emotional state is massively dysregulated, producing states of depression or mania.  Within these states of mind are characteristic dysfunctions in perception, memory, beliefs, and behaviors.  These are disorders where the unique feature is a profound instability of mood.  Anxiety disorders also reveal the flood of an emotion that evokes a dysfunctional state of mind.  Individuals with these difficulties may be excessively sensitive to the environment and may also have autonomous signals of impending disaster, as in panic disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder.  Here, too, there is a marked incapacity to regulate one’s state of mind.  As individuals with these and other disorders (see below) develop, the instability of their states may become a (siegel/tdm/241) characteristic feature, or trait, of their self-regulation.  (siegel/tdm/242)”

“In many of these disorders, a combination of pharmacological and psychotherapeutic interventions may be indicated.  Even if the origin of the dysfunction is seen as the neural instability of some neuronal circuit in the deep or limbic regions of the brain, the mind of the individual is inextricably created by the brain’s activity….dysfunction of a subcomponent in a system can have profound and unpredictable effects on other subcomponents, as well as on the system as a whole.  For this reason, interventions aimed at many layers of the functioning of the brain and the mind may be essential in helping the individual achieve a more balanced and functional form of self-organization.  Within the clinical setting, the relationship of therapist and patient becomes the “external constraint” that can help produce changes in the individual’s capacity for self-organization.  (siegel/tdm/242)”


“…many psychiatric disturbances involve affect dysregulation.  In addition to mood disorders (such as depression and bipolar illness) and the anxiety disorders (including panic disorder, phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and posttraumatic stress disorder), these include dissociate disorders and certain personality disorders, such as borderline and narcissistic character structures.  (siegel/tdm/243)”


(all one paragraph below)

“An example of the developmental origins of impaired self-organization can be seen within those with insecure attachments.

“With the experience of avoidant attachment, the mind learns to adapt to the barren psychological world by decreasing the awareness of socially generated emotional states.  [left brain?]  The rigidity of such a constrained pattern is revealed in the ways in which physiological responses continue to express the significance of social interactions, [right brain?] which are cognitively blocked from being processed.  (siegel/tdm/242)”

“In disorganized attachment experiences, the child acquires the ability to respond to stress with a dis-associaton of processes leading to dissociative states.  [what does he mean by “processes?”  Is this the “disorganized” pattern of adaptation? Does that mean that dissociation is never organized?  I am not sure I believe that!] Whereas some of these states are quite disorganized and incohesive, others have the appearance of functional cohesion.  Closer examination of even these dissociated states reveals a marked cognitive blockage restricting the overall processing of information and the flow of energy through the mind as a whole.  (siegel/tdm/242)”

“The apparently divergent avoidant and disorganized attachment patterns actually share the characteristic of restriction in the flow of states of mind…..during the early years of life, before adolescence, disorganized and avoidantly attached children have the greatest degree of dissociative symptoms….impairments to mental well-being may be understood as adapta- (siegel/tdm/242) tions that impair the balanced flow of energy and information in the formation of emerging states of mind.  (siegel/tdm/243)”


++  “sudden outbursts of intense emotion”

+++  “”Sudden” refers to the notion that something seems to occur without a preparatory period giving some warning or clue that a process is even occurring.  At a minimum, we can suggest that she was not consciously aware of the impending external expression of her emotional response.  (siegel/tdm/243)”

+++  “”Intense emotion” is a common term that we can now interpret in the language of the mind.  “Intense” probably signifies a strong degree of activation or arousal, which became expressed in this woman’s case as the categorical emotion of rage.  (siegel/tdm/243)”

+++  “Is this just the use of new words to describe the familiar notion of an emotional “hijacking” or “outburst,” in which rational thinking is suspended and anger or other (siegel/tdm/243) emotions cloud perceptions and influence behavior?  It is much more than this….  (siegel/tdm/244)”


“…in any psychiatric conditions that may have a large genetic component, understanding the mechanisms of the mind and the contributions of interactive experiences can help provide interventions that can later the way the brain functions.  (siegel/tdm/244)”




(all one paragraph)

“The brain has developed a rich circuitry that helps regulate its states of arousal.  The nature of this process of emotion regulation may vary quite a lot from individual to individual and may be influenced both by constitutional features and by adaptations to experience. (siegel/tdm/244)”

“ “Temperament” describes some of the aspects of inborn characteristics, including sensitivity to the environment, intensity of emotional response, baseline global mood, regularity of biological cycles, and attraction to or withdrawal from novel situations.  (siegel/tdm/244)”

“These inborn features of the nervous system, which are the results of both genetic and intrauterine factors, probably have powerful shaping (siegel/tdm/244) effects throughout the lifespan.  (siegel/tdm/245)”


Attachment studies support the view that the pattern of communication with parents creates a cascade of adaptations that directly shape the development of the child’s nervous system.  Both longitudinal attachment studies and early intervention research support the idea that what parents do with their children makes a difference in the outcome of the children’s development.  It is important to realize that both temperament and attachment history contribute to the marked differences we see between individuals in their ability to regulate their emotions.  (siegel/tdm/245)”


(all one paragraph)


“If emotions influence the flow of states of mind that dominate so many of our mental processes, how do we keep them in some form of balance?  The mind’s ability to regulate emotional processes is essentially the ability of the brain to modulate the flow of arousal and activation throughout its circuits.  Primary emotional processes, categorical emotions, affective expression, and mood can be each regulated by the brain.  (siegel/tdm/245)”

“”Emotion regulation” refers to the general ability of the mind to alter the various components of emotional processing.  The self-organization of the mind in many ways is determined by the self-regulation of emotional states.  How we experience the world, relate to others, and find meaning in life are dependent upon how we have come to regulate our emotions.  (siegel/tdm/245)”


emotions and their regulation are central to the organization of the mind and of the self  (siegel/tdm/245)


“…emotion reflects the fundamental way in which the mind assigns value to external and internal events and then directs the allocation of attentional resources to further the processing of these representations.  In this way, emotion reflects the way the mind directs the flow of information and of energy.  The modulation of emotion is the way the mind regulates energy and information processing….emotional regulation can be seen at the center of the self-organization of the mind.  (siegel/tdm/245)”

[For me, there’s a chronic underlying and at the same time overriding sense that “I did something wrong” or “there is something wrong.”  It permeates my being, my mind, my life – and was programmed into the circuitry of my brain.  This is tied, no doubt, to one of the first sentences I supposedly ever said as recorded in my baby book, “I didn’t mean to.”  (And, “Johnny did it.”)  My mother terrorized and terrified me from the moment of my birth so it would make sense that this sense – what I call FOREBODING or the sense of impending doom – as an emotion — is the pervasive underpinning of the organization of both my mind and my selfIt has to be tied to the bedrock of my entire value system and has something to do with BELONGING – or NOT!  The “something is wrong” feeling has to be tied to the “something’s missing” feeling, and something WAS missing – attachment!  I didn’t belong, nothing belonged TOGETHER – no wonder a person “dis-associates – if nothing belongs or belongs together from the beginning – there is no order – and therefore no flow of information of energy, no flow between the “states of mind.”  How can anything be at the “center?”  Cindy H said this morning that my dreams about all the blocked off and closed off portions of the big house I dream about is related possibly to my writing this book – that I KNOW there is more, the parts others don’t see and don’t know is there.]



“The foundation of emotional processing is the appraisal and arousal system, which can respond with various degrees of intensity.  The brain appears to be able to modify the intensity of response by altering the numbers of neurons that fire and the amounts of neurotransmitters released in response to a stimulus.  Degrees of arousal have a wide range.  If initial appraisal and arousal mechanisms give a minimal activation of the body and brain, then the elaborating appraisal-arousal response will also be minimized….The body’s state of arousal is mediated by the brain through the autonomic nervous system [right brain?] ….the brain in turn monitors the state of the body and incorporates emotional meaning from the somatic markers that serve as representations of the body’s change in physiological state.  (siegelt/dm/246”

“The general pattern of high or low intensity of an individual’s characteristic response may be a product of both constitutional and experiential factors….tendency to respond [or not] intensely to new situations and to withdraw [or approach] when confronted with novelty.  {again, left or right brain dominance factors?]  Geraldine Dawson has found that intensity of emotional response appears to be related to bilateral frontal activation, in contrast to the quality or valence of response, which is asymmetric (involving left activation for approach and right for withdrawal states).  Other individuals may experience milder degrees of intensity of emotion in response to novelty.  (siegel/tdm/246”  [copied to end notes brain laterality 7]


“…Dawson has also found in studies of infants of clinically depressed mothers that the infant’s capacity to experience joy and excitement is markedly reduced, especially if the maternal depression lasts beyond the first year.  Experience can thus directly shape the general intensity and valence of emotional activation in children.  In particular, the sharing of positive emotional states may be missing from the experience of children with depressed parents.  The sharing of such states under normal conditions permits an (siegel/tdm/246) amplification of these pleasurable emotions, which sends both child and parent “into orbit” with waves of intensely engaged positive affect.  If such shared amplification of positive emotional states is missing, as in depressed dyads, then the capacity to tolerate (to emotionally regulate in a balanced manner) and to enjoy these intense states may be underdeveloped.  [what does he mean, “these intense states?”  Is he talking about just positive ones, or ANY intense emotional state?] Interactive experiences enable the child not only to experience high levels of “tension” or emotionally engaged arousal, but to entrain the circuits of the brain to be able to manage such states.  Feeling comfortable with intense arousal and engagement with others may have its origins in both constitutional and experiential features of the individual.  (siegel/tdm/247)”


“…intensity of arousal can be masked.  It is often at the moments in which emotion becomes most intense that we seem to have the greatest need to be understood and the most intense feelings of vulnerability.  These sense of exposure may make many individuals, especially those with unsatisfying past experiences with communication, reluctant to reveal openly what they are feeling.  At a moment of intensity, a failure to be understood, to be connected with emotionally, can result in a profound feeling of shame.  The shame generated by missed opportunities for alignment of states – for the feeling of emotional resonance, of “feeling felt” – can lead to withdrawal.  Even with less intense states, not being understood may lead to a sense of isolation.  Recognizing this vulnerability and the fact that moments of unintended disconnection are inevitable can allow us to repair such ruptures in alignment.  [This is a skill supposed to be taught early and built into the brain – with secure attachment it is – the ability to deal with REPAIR.]  Such interactive repair experiences allow us to learn to tolerate new levels of emotional intensity and the feeling of vulnerability that may accompany them. (siegel/tdm/247)”


[I feel this way a lot, very intense emotions, so I suppose I risk of feeling the “sense of exposure” and the risk of feeling shame, being misunderstood, not connected with emotionally, not feeling emotional resonance or “feeling felt” but craving it, missing it, leading to withdrawal, sense of isolation, vulnerable, not knowing how to tolerate or deal with or repair “ruptures in alignment,” not being able totolerate new levels of emotional intensity and the feeling of vulnerability that may accompany them.”  This is mainly what has lead me to the writing of this book.  For those of us with disorganized attachment, this is a BIG ISSUE]



“Each of us has a “threshold of response,” or minimal amount of stimulation needed in order to activate our appraisal systems.  Those with a hairtrigger response mechanism will find life filled with challenging situations by virtue of their brains’ firing off messages of “This is important – pay attention!” frequently.  [This, I would think, would be much more exaggerated for those of us with infant abuse histories and peritrauma.]  Those with “tougher skins” will not respond with arousal and will be less emotionally sensitive to the same stimuli.  (siegel/tdm/247)”

“Sensitivity, like intensity, may be both constitutional and modified by experience.  Both variables may also be dependent on an individual’s state of mind at a particular moment in time.  We can have times in our lives when our “nerves are raw” and we react quickly to (siegel/tdm/247) previously innocuous events.  We can also be not as sensitive as we might otherwise be when we are preoccupied by something else or emotionally defending ourselves.  Alterations in our threshold of responding may be an important way our brains regulate emotional responses.  (siegel/tdm/248)”

By increasing the amount of stimulation a value center needs to become activated, the brain can directly decrease its sensitivity to the environment.  Later on, modifications in the appraisal system can decrease or increase sensitivity….Recent experience primes the mind for a context-specific change in sensitivity.  (siegel/tdm/248)”


“Repeated patterns of intense emotional experiences may engrain chronic alterations in the degree of sensitivity.  For example, overwhelming terror, especially early in life, may permanently alter the sensitivity of an individual to a particular stimulus related to the trauma….Furthermore, early trauma may be associated with an increase in release of stress hormones in response to daily life experiences.  [he doesn’t say here what this means exactly.]  Early alteration of the circuits of the brain involved in evaluative processes can deeply influence the appraisal mechanisms that directly influence the nature of emotional experience and emotion regulation.  (siegel/tdm/248)”  [this is copied into end notes chapter 21 trauma and into study this 7]


“One way of conceptualizing a therapeutic approach to excessive sensitivity involves the basic stages of emotional processes.  Some early experiences that sensitize the arousal system to fire off may never be fully desensitized.  Patients may remain in a chronically hypersensitized state.  However, specific appraisal of the excessively sensitive general arousal stage can be changed…. “cognitive override” mechanism.  (Siegel/tdm/248)”

++  when original trauma happens before age 2, “explicit autobiographical encoding: will not be yet available “due to the immaturity of…orbitofrontal regions.”

++  primary form of memory for the event will be implicit memories – which will exhibit themselves as emotions such as fear and/or panic and behavior such as avoidance

++  stories may be told by others of the experience, and individual may have own semantic memory [what does this mean exactly?]  This knowledge can be in a noetic form:  knowing the facts, but not having a sense of self at this point in the past

++  the amygdala can be “exquisitely sensitized” to a stimulus from the traumatic event

“…a preconscious feedback look involving the perceptual system and the amygdala would have allowed for the flight-flight response to be initiated even before he became aware that he had seen a dog.  These functional circuits have been evolutionarily helpful to us as human beings:  Once we are hurt, our amygdalas will do everything they can to keep us from allowing it to happen again. (siegel/tdm/249)”

++  can teach people “about the nature of the fear response and the neural circuits underlying it”

++  “relaxation techniques and guided imagery with exposure to self-generated images” of the stimulus can be helpful [also note here Allen’s comments on this in relation to traumatized people]

++  will still have an initial startle response to the stimulus

++ then try the cognitive override strategy —  performing internal override discussions

++  acknowledge the relevance of the amygdala’s response to the stimulus in the present and the past trauma (siegel/tdm/249) (the initial arousal mechanism)

++  then tell self “I know that you are trying to protect me, and that you think this is a dangerous thing” (the specific appraisal stage}

++  next say “I do not need to see this sense of panic as something to fear or get agitated about.”

++  imagine the “amygdala sighing with relief, having discharged its duties to warn, and the sense of doom would dissipate.”

+++++++++  “Creating change within rigid patterns of specific appraisals requires a fundamental change in the organization of information and energy flow.  As we have seen in the example of the man who eventually bought the dog for his children, the alteration in sensitivity to the image of a dog took place at the level of altered specificity (siegel/tdm/252) of appraisal:  The specific appraisal response to both “dog” and “panic” needed to be revised before a new pattern of emotional reaction could be achieved.  (siegel/tdm/253)”  [copied from below in specificity]


“…even if the sensitivity to particular stimuli cannot be changed, a person’s response to the initial arousal can be diverted in ways that lead to a more flexible life.  This may have been made possible by the development and involvement of his prefrontally mediated response-flexibility process.  In this case, this individual’s past trauma had led to a rigid pattern in the flow of information processing and energy (the sight of a dog led to massive arousal and the sense of fear).  By altering the engrained patterns of both the flow of information and energy, the patient became more flexible in his behavior and he was able to move forward more adaptively in his life….impediments to mental health may often be seen as blockages in information processing and energy flow.  Experiences that allow for these fundamental elements to achieve a more flexible and adaptive flow or “circulation” through the mind can contribute greatly to emotional well-being.  (siegel.tdm.250)”


“Emotion regulation can also determine which parts of the brain are activated by arousal.  By determining the specificity of appraisal – the ways in which the value centers are establishing meaning of representations – the brain is able to regulate the flow of energy through the changing states of the system.  (siegel/tdm/250)”

++  arouse state of initial orientation

++  brain begins to process this stimulated state

++  assigns meaning to various aspects of the “causing” stimulus

++  expectations affect context of anticipations, and therefore interpretations, what the signal is, and the emotional response

“The representations activated at any particular moment, including the context of the situation, help shape the specific direction of stimulus appraisal elicited.  The specificity of elaborated and differentiated appraisal directly shapes arousal and thus determines the specific type of emotional experience that unfolds.  (siegel/tdm/251)” [copied to study this 7]

“Through its shaping of arousal, the specificity of appraisal directly influences the differentiation of primary emotions into categorical emotions.  Characteristic differences among individuals in their appraisal mechanisms can directly determine the kinds of emotions generated and can influence the general “nature” of their moods and personality.  Specificity of appraisal creates not only the meaning we attribute to stimulus events, but the meaning of the self-environment context and the form and meaning of the emerging emotional processes themselves.  Specificity is thus a complex, recursive process of evaluation that appraises the meaning of events and the ongoing appraisal-arousal processes.  (siegel/tdm/251)”

(paragraph above continues…)

The specificity of appraisal may be influenced by several elements of the evaluation of the stimulus, such as the individual’s assessment of its relevance to the achievement of current or future goals, its threat to the capacity of the individual to cope and to maintain the self as the locus of control, and its meaning to global issues regarding the self and the self in relation to others.  (siegel/tdm/251)”  [copied to study this 7]

[This, too, then, is like an infinity sign – feeding information back to and within the appraisal system – each evaluation influencing the next]



(this is copied into EMOTION NOTES 7 and needs to be put at the end of emotion notes 2 when it is printed)

“As a child develops, the differentiation of primary emotions into categorical ones becomes more and more sophisticated.  In this manner, there is a progression from the earliest states of pleasure or discomfort to the basic or categorical emotions, such as fear, anger, disgust, surprise, interest, shame, and joy.  Sroufe has described the “precursor emotions” of pleasure, wariness, and frustration/distress as preceding the development of the more discrete emotional states of joy, fear, and anger, respectively.  (siegel/tdm/251)”

“As the child continues to develop, more complex and “socially derived” emotions, such as nostalgia, jealousy, and pride, become differentiated.  Linda Camras has suggested that dynamical systems theory may be useful in examining the development of emotional expression.  From this perspective, the infant’s mind functions to incorporate internal processes with interactional responses from parents in the differentiation of the emotional processes within the interconnected domains of neurophysiology, subjective experience, and expression.  The more differentiated, discrete emotions come to function as attractor states that have internally and externally determined (siegle/tdm/251) constraints.  As described by Carol Malatesta-Magai, such a process is a form of “emotion socialization,” which reflects the fundamental way in which affect serves as a social signal and develops in part as a reflection of interpersonal history.  Such emotion socialization occurs both within the child-caregiver relationship and in peer-peer interactions.  (siegel/tdm/252)”

“The specificity of emotional experience is determined by the specific complex layers of appraisal activated in response to a stimulus.  These evaluative processes, mediated by our socially sensitive value centers in the brain, emerge within our individual constitutions and interactional histories.  It is for this reason that in the same situation two people often have such qualitatively different reactions.  Unique personal meaning is created by the specificity of our emotional responses.  (siegel/tdm/252)” [copied to study this 7]

“Researchers have named a wide range of emotions in various categories.  Some of these include interest/excitement, enjoyment/joy, surprise/astonishment, sadness, anger, disgust, contempt, fear, anxiety, shyness, and love.  Other types have also been described, such as the “self-conscious emotions: of embarrassment, pride, shame, and guilt, as well as a sense of exhilaration and humor.  [Why does he not speak about hope & trust?]  Individuals may have experienced many or all of these emotions at some point in their lives.  They may also have noticed that each time they experienced a given categorical emotion (for example, sadness), it has both unique and universal aspects.  As a state of the system is assembled, it has unique features of both inner processes and external contexts.  (siegel/tdm/252)”

“The differentiation of primary emotional states into categorical emotions [done by specificity of appraisal] is a rapid process illustrating how various layers of the brain are influenced by the unfolding state of mind.  In its essence, emotion is a set of processes involving the recruitment of various circuits under the umbrella of one state of mind.  Thus the appraisal and arousal [again, appraisal put before arousal] processes create a neural net activation profile – a state of mind – whose characteristics in turn directly shape subsequent appraisal and arousal processes.  [Why does he put appraisal first and arousal second?  Would it really be the other way around?]  This intricate feedback mechanism helps us to see why patterns of emotional response can be so tenacious in a given individual.  The elements of continuity in specificity are self-reinforcing.  (siegel/tdm/252)”  [this paragraph is copied into chapter 46 states of mind]

[this whole section above is copied into emotion notes 7]


Creating change within rigid patterns of specific appraisals requires a fundamental change in the organization of information and energy flow.  As we have seen in the example of the man who eventually bought the dog for his children, the alteration in sensitivity to the image of a dog took place at the level of altered specificity (siegel/tdm/252) of appraisal:  The specific appraisal response to both “dog” and “panic” needed to be revised before a new pattern of emotional reaction could be achieved.  (siegel/tdm/253)”  [this is copied into the place above where siegel talks about the dog]


Value circuits determine specific appraisal, creating the basic hedonic tone of “this is good” or “this is bad” and the behavioral set of “approach” or “withdraw.”  Value circuits also continue to assess the meaning of these initial activations as they are elaborated into more defined emotional states, including the categorical emotions.  What determines the nature of the appraisal/value process itself?  How does the mind “know” what should be paid attention to, what is good or bad, and how to respond with sadness or anger?  (siegel/tdm/253)”  [this is interesting, how does the mind know how to respond with a specific feeling?  Does he mean that literally, like HOW TO RESPOND physiologically (mechanically), or how to decide which specific emotion to feel in response?]

“For human beings to have survived, this complex appraisal process had to be organized by at least two components.  According to the fundamental principles of evolution, the characteristics of those individuals whose genes shaped the appraisal process in a direction that helped the individuals to survive and pass on their genes are more likely to be present today.  This is one explanation, for example, of why some people are frightened of snakes though they may never have seen one before.  This may also explain why infants have a “hard-wired,” inborn system to appraise attachment experiences as important.  (siegel/tdm/253)”

“A second evolutionarily crucial influence on the appraisal mechanism is that it had to be able to learn from an individual’s experience.  Individuals who did not learn, for example, that touching a flame hurts would have been more likely to be repeatedly injured and unable to defend themselves, and therefore less likely to survive and pass on their genes.  Those individuals whose brains could alter their evaluative mechanisms would have been more likely to survive.  Hence, the appraisal system is also responsive to experience; it learns.  Emotional engagement enhances learning.  (siegel/tdm/253)”  [this is being copied into study this 7]

++  appraisal system can learn from experience, evaluative mechanisms can be altered

++  [now, with disorganized attachment, how pervasive (and possible) can this alteration be?]



Each of us has a “window of tolerance” in which various intensities of emotional arousal can be processed without disrupting the functioning of the system.  For some people, high degrees of intensity feel comfortable and allow them to think, behave, and feel with balance and effectiveness.  For others, certain emotions (such as anger or sadness), or all emotions, maybe quite disruptive to functioning if they are active in even mild degrees.  The intensity of a specific emotional state may involve arousal and appraisal mechanisms outside of (siegle/tdm/253) awareness….these nonconscious activities of appraisal influence how the brain processes informationOne’s thinking or behavior can become disrupted if arousal moves beyond the boundaries of the window of toleranceFor some persons, this window may be quite narrow.  For such individuals, emotional processes may only become conscious when their intensity nears the boundaries of the window and is on the verge of disorganizing the functioning of the system.  [How is this related to disorganized attachment?]  For others, a wide range of emotion may be both tolerable and available to consciousness – from pleasant emotions including joy, excitement, or love, to unpleasant ones such as anger, sadness, or fear.  (siegel/tdm/254)”

“The width of the window of tolerance within a given individual may vary, depending upon the state of mind at a given time, the particular emotional valence, and the social context in which the emotion is being generated….Within the boundaries of the window, the mind continues to function well.  Outside the boundaries, function becomes impaired.  (siegel.tdm.254)”

“At its most basic level this can be understood in terms of the activity of the autonomic nervous systems branches….Outside the window of tolerance, excessive sympathetic branch activity can lead to increased energy-consuming processes, manifested as increases in heart rate and respiration and as a “pounding” sensation in the head.  At the other extreme, excessive parasympathetic branch activity leads to increased energy-conserving processes, manifested as decreases in heart rate and respiration and a sense of “numbness” and “shutting down” within the mind.  Other autonomic combinations are possible, with the most common being simultaneous activation of both branches; this creates the internal sensation of an “explosion” in the head and tension in the body, as if one we driving a car with both the brakes and the accelerator on at the same time.  Some individuals refer to such a state as “explosive rage.”  (siegel./tdm/254)”


Under these conditions, the “higher” cognitive functions of abstract thinking and self-reflection are shut down.  The circuits linking these cortical processes with the highly discharging limbic centers are functionally blocked, and rational thought becomes impossible.  In states of mind beyond the window of tolerance, the prefrontally mediated capacity for response flexibility is temporarily shut down.  The “higher mode” of integrative processing has been replaced by a (siegel/tdm/254) “lower mode” of reflexive responding.  The integrative function of emotion, in which self-regulation permits a flexibly adaptive interaction with the environment, is suspended.  We can propose that under such conditions, the dynamical system appears to shift away from the movement toward maximizing complexity by entering into states characterized by either excessive rigidity or randomness.  These states are inflexible or chaotic, and as such are not adaptive to the internal or external environment.  The mind has entered a suboptimal organizational flow that may reinforce its own maladaptive pattern.  This is now a state of emotion dysregulation.  (siegel/tdm/255)”  [are they states he is describing adaptive to a trauma situation?]


“A window of tolerance may be determined both by constitutional features (temperament) and by experiential learning.  Present physiological conditions, such as hunger and exhaustion, may also markedly restrict individuals’ windows of tolerance and make them more vulnerable to irritability and “emotional outbursts.”  (siegel/tdm/255)”

“A person’s present state of mind can also narrow or widen the window of tolerance.  Being emotionally worn, physically exhausted, or surprised by an interaction can each narrow the window of tolerance.  In such cases, an individual may become “emotionally wrought up” or visibly upset by an encounter; under other conditions, the person’s emotions might have merely indicated that something important was occurring.  (siegel/tdm/256)”


“Windows of tolerance may also be directly influenced by experiential history.  If children have been frightened repeatedly in their early history, fear may become associated with a sense of dread or terror that is disorganizing to their systems.  Repeated senses of being out of control – experiencing emotions without a sense of others (siegel/tdm/255) helping them to calm them down – can lead such persons to be unable to soothe themselves as they develop.  This lack of self-soothing can lead directly to a narrow window of tolerance.  When such a person breaks through that window, the result is a very disorganizing, “out-of-control” sensation, which in itself creates a further state of distress. (siegel/tdm/256)”  [copied to end notes chapter 21 trauma and to dissociation notes 6]


“…early experiences of dysregulated dyadic states can be associated with the development of individual dysfunction later in life.  Still, “association” does not mean “causation.” ….a constitutional tendency to break through windows of tolerance….”  (siegel.tdm.257)



++  windows of tolerance

++  recovery processes

++  access to consciousness

++  external expression

+++  seven basic components (areas or aspects of emotion regulation) of  “a flexible and adaptive capacity for the regulation of emotional processes” —  emotion regulation or affect regulation – “the various ways in which the mind regulates its own functioning” (siegel/tdm/246 – this last sentence)

++  regulation of intensity:  intensity of arousal; elaborating appraisal & arousal system; body’s state of arousal is mediated by the brain through the autonomic nervous system;  incorporates meaning from somatic markers; brain laterality; shared amplifications of states; capacity to tolerate tension or emotionally engaged arousal (to emotionally regulate in a balanced manner); early brain development entrains circuits of the brain to manage [or not manage] such states;  shame vs “feeling felt” with intense emotions; can be tied to isolation, withdrawal, vulnerability;

++  sensitivity:  threshold of response or minimal amount of stimulation needed to activate appraisal systems; emotional sensitivity to stimuli; “nerves are raw”;  what we react to; Alterations in our threshold of responding may be an important way our brains regulate emotional responses; mind can alter its sensitivity; context-specific change in sensitivity; effects of trauma on this; hypersensitized state; “cognitive override” mechanism; amygdala can be sensitized to stimuli from a traumatic event; response to initial arousal can be diverted so can have a less rigid and more flexible life using the prefrontally mediated response-flexibility process; can alter blockages in information processing and energy glow to be more adaptive in flow or “circulation” through the mind, contributing to greater emotional well-being

++  specificityValue circuits determine specific appraisal; determines which parts of the brain arousal activates; way in which value centers establish meaning of representations; The specificity of elaborated and differentiated appraisal directly shapes arousal and thus determines the specific type of emotional experience that unfolds; specificity of appraisal is a complex (layers of appraisal), recursive process of evaluation(intricate feedback mechanism); elements of continuity in specificity are self-reinforcing; creates the meaning we attribute to stimulus events (appraises the meaning of events) & self-environment context & shapes arousal & differentiates primary emotions into categorical emotions (form and meaning of the emerging emotional processes themselves) (is a rapid process); specificity of appraisal may be influenced by several elements of the evaluation of the stimulus; developmental progression of differentiation of emotional processes; develops emotion socialization & affect as social signal; hard to change rigid patterns – change at level of specific appraisal response can alter sensitivity [and no doubt intensity?]; appraisal system helps us to survive; appraisal system can learn

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