Emotions and the Brain: the origins of values?

The meeting of the Fells and Dales Counsellors on Friday August 24th 2018, met, through the medium of TED and UTube talks, Professor Mark Solms and Dr Jaak Panskepp, the latter now sadly deceased.

The input stemmed from a visit by one member in July to South Africa. He had been reading a book The Brain and  the Inner World written by Profesor Solms. Noting that Professor Soms was at Cape Town University he discovered that this Vineyard was located ten minutes away from where the holiday accommodation was situated, a visit was therefore possible. Mark Solms is Professor of Neuropsychology at the University of Cape Town. He is also a psychoanalyst and the owner of a Vineyard in Franschhoek.

The relationship to that Vineyard, Solms and Delta Vineyard, is  complicated and offers a fascinating insight into the political and cultural situation in South Africa. The insight of a psychoanalyst to that situation illuminated by the mind of a neuropsychologist is rich indeed. One possible reference to hear about the sociological dynamics can be found at: https://youtu.be/C_Aao_8XOAI       Mark Soms giving his land back to farmers.

The focus then was switched to hearing Professor Solms, the academic, speaking of a fundamental theory concerning ethics. He understands and has been able to demonstrate that all mammas have the same brain structure and deep level of emotional response. We share our emotional brain responses with 500 million years of mammalian evolution. Our fundamental emotional responses concern survival and reproduction. All mammals feel the enthusiasm for seeking and finding that which keeps the physical body in being and harmony. When it is not in harmony, the emotional response is such that that balance must be restored. 500 million years ago then, the concept of values was being played out in terms of that which is ‘good’ and achieves physiological balance and that which is ‘bad’ and upsets or destroys that balance. all of which is routed to the inner brain emotionally. Thus our value system was born as was consciousness itself, in an awareness of what our emotions were conveying, namely, ‘how am I doing?’

Professor Solms refers to the work of Jaak Pansksepp, Estonian neuroscientist, and known for his work now into affective neuroscience whose book The Archeology ofthe Mind details his resesarch into those primary and ancient emotions that we share in common with all mamanals. His identification of seven fundamental primary affects is becoming better known. There are several TED videos which feature Jaak Panskepp such as that seen during this meeting at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=65e2qScV_K8

Discussion visited the origins of ethics in use today in our professional bodies and curiosity about the tendency towards the apparent doctrinal even dogmatic assertion of our professional ethical boundary statements. Perhaps education in affective neuroscience may help practitioners understanding of their emotional lives that sometimes lead to unwise behaviours.

We were reminded of the association of Sandra Paulsen to Jaak Panskepp and her EMDR workshops inviting participants to consider the existence of these fundamental primary emotional circuits. She proposes that these, due to innumerable forces no doubt, can be ‘damaged’ or ‘distorted’ and not fulfilling their evolved purposes. She teaches EMDR protocols for their ‘resetting’. A member of the group who has benefitted from her workshop and had the privilege of working with some clients in this mode, told of his awareness of and fascination with clients’ processes and work that led to an apparent amelioration of their emotional lives.

All felt that a world of new reading had been offered!



Emotions and the Brain: the origins of values?