Affective Faculty -> Imagination

k p Collins kpaulc at [----------]earthlink.net
Thu Dec 25 06:50:33 EST 2003


Hi Mr. Smith.

"Jack Smith" <xauxaux at yahoo.com.au> wrote in message
news:874qvqi4sm.fsf at photon.localdomain...
> I am investigating the neurological implications of a state described
> by a person who claims to have 'gone beyond spiritual enlightenment'.
> He became 'enlightened' (characterised by 'ego dissolution', loss of
> 'personal identity', etc) in 1982, and lived in this state of
> 'enlightenment' for 11 years.  Subsequently, he recognised the
> 'enlightened' state as a profound delusion, a 'passionate mental
> construct' that had no basis in reality.
>
> Upon recovering from this delusion, he claims that his entire
> affective faculty disappeared completely.  Since 1992 he claims to
> have experienced no emotions whatsoever, and has been assessed
> independently by two psychiatrists as being alexithymic,
> depersonalised, derealised and anhedonic.  (The psychiatrists who
> diagnosed alexithymia verified his claim that not only was he unable
> to experience emotions, he did not exhibit any physical signs of
> emotion.)
>
> The primary reason for my question is: he claims that, with the
> complete disappearance of his affective faculty, he lost all capacity
> to visualise or imagine anything.  He is highly intelligent, perfectly
> capable of rational thinking and rational discourse, but is utterly
> unable to visualise anything (either from memory or from active
> imagination).  He claims that the imaginative faculty is an
> epiphenomenon of the affective faculty, which sounds dubious to me,
> but I am not medically trained, and do not have much knowledge of
> neurology.
>
> I am interested in your opinions as to whether the capacity to
> visualise phenomena is intimately neurologically related to the
> capacity to feel emotions.  Any other comments, especially any
> pointers to similar cases (exceptionally rare, I would think), would
> also be appreciated.
>
> Thanks in advance.
> RG.

More info is necessary.

How does he behave with respect to unfamiliar
circumstances?

To save msg round-trips, I'll explain.

I ask because "imagining" necessitates experiencing
a relatively non-minimal degree of activation.

If the fellow routinely 'moves away from' [even by
simply not seeking-out] unfamiliar experiential
circumstances, then he's probably not suffereing a
loss of affect. [If it's so] He's probably just not
experiencing circumstances which activate the
biological reward mechanisms. one way or the other,
and not experiencing affect, in that circumstance,
would be 'normal'.

The imagination thing is 'linked' only by the happen-
stance of the fact that both affect and imagining
necessitate elevated activation 'states'.

If he's been 'moving away from' everything that is
normally accompanied by elevated degrees of
nervous system activation, then his nervous system
is 'just' reflecting that.

If it's been a long-term thing, he should =NOT= just
jump into relatively-unfamiliar experiential circum-
stances, but should probably do something like
seeking the assistance of someone experienced in
=gentle= working-through of 'agoraphobia'.

I say "probably" because I do not know whether
he's experiencing any 'desire' to experience differently
than he presently is.

But it's definitely something that needs =gentleness=
if he 'wants' to 'move away from' the absence of
affect [but that 'wanting' would be 'affect', and it
seems that he does 'want' because he's sought
assistance already. So he does experience 'affect',
and he could 'imagine' that there could be something
other than his present circumstance - or did he seek
assistance in order to verify that he could neither
imagine, nor feel emotion? Is his sensory experience
'normal', otherwise?]

Tell me more if what's here doesn't apply [if he
=does= actively seek novelty].

k. p. collins





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